I knew it was coming. And I knew it would be sprung on producers quickly to minimize the amount of time available to organize opposition.
A referendum for The Texas Beef Checkoff is being held June 2-6. (That’s only 8 weeks away as of this posting!) If you sell or feed cattle in Texas, you are eligible to vote on whether or not another dollar per head sold will be taken from your paycheck before you even see your money.
I first found out about the basics of the referendum late Friday (4 April) afternoon from the Texas Farm Bureau Newsletter:
State Beef Checkoff Supported by Industry Groups
Texas cattle producers will have the opportunity to approve a state beef check off program that could generate an additional $8 million to promote beef in Texas, the U.S. and international markets.
The state program has wide support from industry groups such as the Independent Cattlemens’ Association of Texas, the Texas Association of Dairymen, the Texas Cattle Women’s Association, the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, the Texas and Southwest Cattle Raisers Association, and the Texas Farm Bureau.
These groups represent the majority of the beef producers in Texas.
If approved, the dollar per head producers would pay into a state check off program would allow Texas producers to conduct beef promotion, marketing, research and educational programs for consumers in Texas and around the globe.
This dollar would supplement the national checkoff program which producers approved in 1988. Producers can vote for a state beef checkoff program beginning June 2 through June 6. If approved, the assessment will be collected at each point of ownership in Texas.
Eligible producers can vote at any Texas A&M agrilife extension service county office during each office’s regular business hours. A mail-in ballot may be requested from TDA no later than June 2, 2014 and postmarked no later than the close of business on Friday, June 6, 2014.
The program would be managed by Texas cattle men and women serving on the beef promotion and research council of Texas.
Why Texas Farm Bureau is pushing this so hard is an interesting question which I’ve no time to research right now. I suspect it has something to do with the “money-go-round” that industry organizations enjoy. That is the game in which matching funds between industry organizaions and government and quasi-government entities magically increase project funding. Despite their motivation, Farm Bureau buoys support for the additional checkoff tax by asserting in their newsletter how bad off producers would be without the national checkoff. Apparently we would not be selling any beef overseas, nor would we have developed 13 new cuts of meat in 26 years. All of that is due entirely to the U.S. Beef Checkoff. Individuals motivated by the profit motive would have done nothing.
According to the people who directly benefit from it, the U.S. Beef Checkoff just does not have enough money to operate, so the mandatory $1 per head tax must be increased. Despite their own survey (funded by checkoff dollars) that shows high support for the program, the Checkoff administrators ruled that it’s dangerous to mess with the original legislation (because the existing $1 per head assessment could be threatened). So it was cleverly decided that each state would advance its own additional checkoff program.
Here in Texas, the announcement was made without fanfare this week by the organizations supporting the move.
Interesting that the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) already has a page up and speaks of the Texas Beef Checkoff as though it already exists. This referendum seems to just be dealing with the tiny issue of funding it.
From the TDA site:
Q: Is the Texas Beef Checkoff program different than the current U.S. Beef Checkoff program?
A: Yes, the Texas Beef Checkoff program is different and separate from the current U.S. Beef Checkoff. The Texas Beef Checkoff program may complement and extend the U.S. Beef Checkoff efforts.
…such as funding “research” into sustainability, in conjunction with The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, which is a high-level joint venture with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which actively opposes cattle feeding?
Rest assured, though, if you do not approve of the Checkoff, you need not vote against the measure! You may request a refund of your money that has already been stripped from your paycheck!
“A producer who has paid an assessment to the Texas Beef Checkoff may obtain a refund of the amount paid by filing an application for refund with the Beef Promotion and Research Council of Texas within 60 days after the date of payment. The application must be in writing, on a form prescribed by the Council for that purpose, and accompanied by proof of payment of the assessment.”
There are things I do not know, such as what happens if the cattle are fed in Texas and sold to a packer in Kansas or Colorado? What if a Texas producer takes his calves to Oklahoma or Louisiana to sell them? What if a New Mexico producer sells his yearlings in Texas?
Q: Who is eligible to vote?
A: Any producer, regardless of age, who has owned cattle in Texas any time between June 6, 2013, and June 6, 2014, is eligible to vote in the referendum. For purposes of this referendum, a producer may be either an individual or a legal business entity. Youth younger than 16 years of age must have a parent or guardian co-sign the ballot. A non-producer (i.e. dealer, order buyer, etc.) is not eligible to vote in the referendum.
What kind of proof of ownership is needed to vote? If I owned one stock show steer in the prior 12 months, can I vote? If a husband and wife team owns 10,000 head in a year under the same business name, can they both vote?
Who counts the votes? Who oversees the process? How do we know that opposition votes will not end up accidentally round-filed?
Perhaps you have your own questions…
For more information about the Texas Beef Checkoff and the referendum, contact:
Texas Department of Agriculture
P.O. Box 12847
Austin, Texas 78711
Phone: (512) 463-3285
In addition to a “No” vote in this referendum, I urge eternal vigilance within your own industry organization. Please do not blindly support a group that was excellent 20 or 30 years ago. Many industry associations have lost touch with their roots.
I love ag. I grew up with the independent spirit that characterizes cattle people…or any people who run their own business and suffer or enjoy the consequences of their own decision making. The agriculture I love…and the ability to make those decisions on private property…is severely threatened. Our own industry assocations are playing with fire in attempting to appease the people who hate our existence.
Please let them know that you are on to them. Vote NO on the Texas Beef Checkoff June 2-6.