As of today, 2,825 producers have submitted a petition calling for a vote on the termination of the Beef Promotion and Research Order.
Several individual ranchers and farm and ranch groups, including R-CALF USA, formally launched a national petition drive on July 2 requesting a nationwide referendum on the termination of the Beef Promotion and Research Order, commonly known as the Beef Checkoff program, Feedstuffs reported.
“NCBA fully supports the producers’ right to have their voices heard on the future of the checkoff," said National Cattlemen's Beef Association President Marty Smith, a Florida cattle rancher. "However, we also believe the petition and signature gathering processes should be transparent and conducted with integrity."
Let's back up. Who pays the beef checkoff?
According to the Beef Promotion and Research Act, all producers selling cattle or calves must pay $1 per head to support promotion, research and information. The buyer is generally responsible for collecting $1 per head from the seller. The beef checkoff was established as part of the 1985 farm bill.
Where does the money go once it's collected?
The funds are sent to respective state beef councils and then the Cattlemen's Beef Board. If the state doesn't have a council, funds go directly to the Cattlemen's Beef Board.
What is the Cattlemen's Beef Board?
The Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board, which is usually referred to as the Cattlemen's Beef Board, consists of 99 members, including domestic beef, dairy and veal producers, as well as importers of beef and beef products.
Each Beef Board member is appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture from nominations submitted by certified nominating organizations who represent beef and dairy producers in each state or region. Importer appointments are drawn from nominations by importer associations.
In addition to overseeing the collection of the checkoff, the board is responsible for approving the annual budget for its national checkoff-funded programs.
How is the National Cattlemen's Beef Association involved?
Why the petition?
"This is the first step in reclaiming cattle producers' independence from the government-mandated Beef Checkoff Program that has been taxing our industry to fund the government's speech for over 30 years," said R-CALF USA Checkoff Committee chair Vaughn Meyer in a Feedstuffs article. R-CALF USA was joined by the South Dakota Livestock Markets Association, 25 individual livestock action markets, the Organization for Competitive Markets, electric power cooperatives and other groups. The entire list can be found here.
How many producers have to sign a petition for a referendum to be held? How long do they have to sign the petition?
The Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985 states that ". . . the Secretary may conduct a referendum on the request of a representative group comprising 10 per centum or more of the number of cattle producers to determine whether cattle producers favor the termination or suspension of the order." The most recent USDA census data reports 882,692 cattle producers, so a minimum of 88,269 eligible signatures are required to meet the 10% threshold, according to the petition. Eligible producers can sign the petition through July 1, 2021. Find the petition here.
What is NCBA saying about the petition drive?
"NCBA trusts cattle producers to make the right decisions for our industry, so if some producers feel they need to sign a petition calling for a vote on the Beef Checkoff, then they should sign," Smith said. "If enough sign, then we should vote. We are confident that a vote by those who invest and direct their hard-earned dollars will again show strong support for this program and will finally allow our industry to put this issue behind us."