By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup
As fall shipping is underway, cattle producers will be writing checks to the Beef Checkoff. For every cow sold, the Beef Checkoff will collect $1, and of this dollar, up to half remains in Wyoming for local beef promotion, research and education programming administered by the Wyoming Beef Council. The other half goes to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) for the same reasons. Both entities are made up of cattle producers.
The Beef Checkoff was created under the 1985 Farm Bill. At the time, consumers were starting to replace beef on the dinner table with chicken and pork. Chicken and pork products were being marketed and beef was not, thus, cattle producers and processors had to come up with a marketing plan to promote beef.
In today’s world, beef products are no different from any other consumer products. In order to be competitive and sell their product, producers have to make their product visible to consumers, promote the positives of their product and be willing to adapt to consumers’ wants and needs.
“Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.” was a Beef Checkoff campaign introduced almost 31 years ago, and today it is still recognized by 88 percent of the public – now that is marketing.
The Beef Checkoff has strict guidelines and regulations in program management. Each state’s Beef Council, the national Cattlemen’s Beef Board and all of the contractors are audited annually ensuring compliance with the Beef Promotion Act and Order.
All contractors who receive contracts for checkoff work are established, national nonprofit, industry-governed organizations and are under oversight by the CBB, both statewide and nationally. The contractors operate on a cost-recovery basis, meaning they must pay all program costs first and are then only reimbursed after all the above checks have been conducted. Contractors never receive money up front. CBB’s and the state Beef Council’s own operations are overseen by the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which must approve all budgets, board activities and contractor work.
This transparency and oversight adds creditability to the program. Our nation’s cattle producers, beef processors and beef importers all gain from the promotion of the programs. A lot of producers are not happy to have beef importers involved, but this is the way the program was set up, and each part of the industry pays their fair share.
According to a Wyoming beef producer attitude survey, over 70 percent of Wyoming’s beef producers support the Beef Checkoff. National support is comparable.
Consumers like the Beef Checkoff, too, as the checkoff provides consumers information on how to select cuts of meat, how to cook beef and explores health benefits of eating beef. Everyone likes ground beef and it is easy to cook in many ways. But, to have the consumer try other cuts of beef and have the confidence to cook different cuts, is the success of the Beef Checkoff.
Over the years, the Beef Checkoff has been challenged, but their creditability has stood tall. One industry organization is currently challenging the checkoff, and I have never understood their reasoning.
This organization has never shown interest in becoming a contractor to help promote beef, as they should, because their members are beef producers. Is it because they don’t have the money, people and resources to pay up front or can’t stand up to the transparency and oversight required to be a part of the Beef Checkoff? Or, do they dislike organizations, such as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a prime contractor with the CBB to promote the beef industry and use checkoff funds, and does so with the transparency and oversight required?
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