Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack

Vilsack abandons plans for second beef checkoff

After losing support from one of the only ag organizations in favor of a second, duplicative beef checkoff program and then losing funding for the idea, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack will walk away from his proposal to create a second, government-run beef checkoff program.

It was, almost everyone in the beef business said, a bad idea. And even the National Farmers Union, one of the few ag groups to back the idea, reversed course and withdrew its support for a second, duplicative beef checkoff program. With the writing already drying on the wall for USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Congress threw a high, hard one when it pulled funding for the idea in the 2015 Omnibus Spending Bill that passed this week.

The news was met with a great sigh of relief by many cattle producer organizations. According to Bob McCan, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) president and Victoria, Texas cattleman, “We greatly appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s action, allowing the industry stakeholders to continue working together to enhance the Beef Checkoff Program. All of us involved in this process have been very mindful of the tremendous producer support of the checkoff, and we will continue to work with the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group and our members to enhance the program while building on that support.”

While NCBA was one of the most vocal in its opposition to creating a second, duplicative beef checkoff program, some 45 state cattle producer organizations also chimed in, sending a letter to Vilsack earlier this year voicing opposition to the idea.

According to Jim McCann, president of the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association (MCA), “The Secretary asked for comments and responded appropriately to the concerns expressed by those of us who invest our dollars into the Beef Checkoff Program. MCA considers this announcement to be good news."

The Secretary's suggestion for a new beef checkoff under the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996 would have created inefficiencies and added confusion to a highly successful program, adds MCA Executive Vice President Mike Deering. Deering says while the association is pleased with the announcement, MCA is disappointed that this idea was ever put forward.

The new checkoff would have functioned under the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996. The Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985 governs the current beef checkoff. MCA expressed "vehement" opposition to the creation of a new beef checkoff under the 1996 Act.

"We are extremely disappointed that this proposal ever saw the light of day. The idea was a bad one and never should have been presented in the first place," Deering says. "The Beef Checkoff Program was started by cattlemen for cattlemen with their money. We are not talking about government money. We are talking about cattlemen investing their money into their industry. We want less government intervention; certainly not more."

 

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