Beef Producers, Beware! Industry Organizations Are Pushing To Take More of YOUR Hard-Earned Money.

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?

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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:

Lance Williams
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.

 

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8 comments on “Beef Producers, Beware! Industry Organizations Are Pushing To Take More of YOUR Hard-Earned Money.

  1. iloveag says:

    I’ve had online conversations in which people involved with the U.S. Beef Checkoff denied that they had anything to do with the sustainability push. This is patently false. A quick Internet search proves otherwise.

    In addition, I attended the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association convention in Tampa, Florida, at which checkoff involvement was proudly admitted. This post on Sustainability includes the transcript of one of the meetings at that convention. I encourage you all to read it in its entirety. Enlightening is an understatement. https://iloveag.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/are-you-sustainable/

  2. Blake Deyhle says:

    I am a Cattleman, and my livelihood come solely from beef production. I am active in TCFA and NCBA. This additional checkoff money is much needed in the promotion, research, and marketing of the Beef Industry. This is not a money grab, nor is it negative. I know it is human nature to say it is a bad thing when someone asks for our hard earned money, but in some cases it is worth the investment. I use the term investment, because that is what this is, more checkoff dollars is an investment in the future of our industry. How much will this actually affect us, Probably a dollar or two per head. That is a nominal number, and in the grand scheme of our business it is minimal. I noticed in your blog you noted that you had not researched this, In the future please research the issue from both sides before you post about a topic. Advocacy is needed and appreciated, but this isn’t a case that we need to be scared of. Just my opinion!

    • iloveag says:

      Blake, thanks for your comment. I have researched this quite extensively. I was referring to the Farm Bureau’s involvement in this issue when I said I’d not performed research.

      Do you believe that marketing, promotion, and research would not occur in the absence of the Beef Checkoff? What happened prior to 1988? Were there no beef exports?

      Do you believe that our checkoff dollars should support the sustainability project and the high-level association with WWF, which truly hates any confined animal feeding operations, lobbies actively against, them, and is highly involved in supporting the (discredited) global climate change movement, with livestock production (according to them) being one of the leading causes of man-made global warming? (See their websites, two links of which are included in my post.)

      How much this will actually affect us…probably a dollar or two per head. Hmmm. You might know more than I know, as the official line is $1 per head. When will they act to increase it to $2? For those of us who trade significant numbers of cattle in a year, the additional dollar per head puts a big dent in our net income. No big deal for you, perhaps, but huge for my family.

      Finally, if support for the Checkoff is as high as claimed, why does it have to be mandatory? Why don’t those people who have a dollar or two per head to flick around fund what they believe in (“it is worth the investment”), and leave the rest of us to fund what we believe in? Surely the fundamental principles of a free and prosperous society (principles which I thought the beef industry upheld vigorously) dictate such respect of person and property.

      I appreciate you engaging with me directly, Blake. Apparently, lots of phone calls and discussion took place today about my little blog post (never knew so many people read it!), but you seem to be the only one honorable enough to discuss in an open and honest forum such as this. Kudos! All opinions welcome!

      I’m reminded of what Evelyn Beatrice Hall wrote in her biography of Voltaire (in summarizing his attitude toward freedom): “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” If we within the cattle industry cannot have forthright and honest debate, something is severely wrong.

      • Blake Deyhle says:

        Thanks for the reply. I believe that we need Beef Checkoff as well as other means to educated, research, promote, and market the beef industry. Did it get done before 1988, yes. Does that mean we need to go backward, no. We are under attack, and we can use all avenues to help the industry. It is my view that we will always agree with every use of every dollar, heck no. What The Beef Checkoff does for us is, promotes our business/way of life while we are busy working to produce the best protein product in the world.

        The effect on us as producers is very minimal, on a per head basis. When you figure the actual cost on a cost of gain basis you, 1 dollar is nothing. Does that mean the end dollar figure doesn’t matter, no. Does that mean that the $1 per head means less to me than you, no not at all. What it does mean is that we are fighting the fight with dollar values in the 1990’s, and we are fighting our antagonist who are fighting with todays dollars. Not to mention our lower herd population hitting our efforts. As we know HSUS and others are great at raising money to tell their story, while we are all arguing about $1 per head.

        Everyone is not always going to agree on how Checkoff is spent; the end result is that Beef is being promoted, and we are better off for it.

        In closing I appreciate your response again. I understand where you are coming from, and don’t totally disagree. I must say though, it isn’t about flicking around money like it is nothing. This is about the betterment of BEEF!! A lot of good has come from the first dollar we all spend now, Something to think about.

        Feel free to email me personally if you would like.

      • iloveag says:

        Blake, thanks. You say, “Everyone is not always going to agree on how Checkoff is spent; the end result is that Beef is being promoted, and we are better off for it.”

        You engage in fallacious logic on this point. You assume that in the absence of Checkoff, beef would not be promoted.

        The most important point to me is that despite the money spent on good programs (I love ANCW’s Beef Ambassador Program, Recipe Contests and Beef Promotion), it’s all being offset by the fatal program of “sustainability.” I am not better, but worse off, for it.

  3. iloveag says:

    Update: A rancher in Texas has reported to me that she went to her local extension office on Monday morning to get the paperwork for voting. When asked what he knew of the issue, the extension agent said, “Nothing. I only just got the stuff Friday afternoon.”

    The lid was kept tightly on this deal until all the parties involved went live at the same time last week. Is this the type of service to members we expect of our industry associations? If this is such a no-brainer and everyone is so happy with Checkoff, then why the secrecy?

  4. Iloveag says:

    A few answers to questions:

    1) point of sale is the key. If you raise cattle in another state but sell them in Texas, you pay the $1. (Sorry, border sale barns like those in Paris, TX, I worked growing up!)

    2) I can only assume that feed yards that sell to Kansas or Colorado packers will be deemed to be the point of sale.

    3) a kid with one show calf gets same vote as producer with thousands of head. If husband and wife own the cattle (jwros or tic), they each get a vote. If cattle are held in a company name, just one vote per entity.

    4) voters will sign an affidavit as to the fact that they’ve owned cattle. After the vote, random audits to verify ownership will be conducted.

  5. Laurie says:

    Blake,

    The beef checkoff is a TAX. If it is so good, why was everything done to minimize the voter turn out? If only 7080 votes were cast out of 150,000 registered farms and ranches (not counting all the individuals who could vote), we don’t have the right people running the beef checkoff as they can’t even get 5% of entities to vote much less the multiples of the people who own cattle to vote. It is a sad day when the industry organizations force this upon us. I worked hard in several counties to stop this crazy money grab. In all my counties we voted it down overwhelmingly. Just think if more people knew what would have happened. But that’s the point… they can’t have the largest cattle state vote this down. They learned from other states what to do and not do. Check out how Minnesota handled their vote. I wish our state would have been as concerned about its voters knowing.

    Let’s walk in someone else’s shoes with this example… I don’t think you would be as pleased to be taxed a dollar when your Jersey bull calf only brought $4 at the sale and the commission was $10 and now there is a $2 beef checkoff tax? This is unethical at best. Some common sense must prevail at some point.

    There are so many things wrong with this money grab and not enough time to tell it. It should be voluntary and handled through memberships in organizations and not mandated by law.

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