Tuesday, April 05, 2016

State Beef Checkoffs Creating Rift In Cattle Country

Americans are buying less beef. That’s why some ranchers want to pay for more ads to boost sales. But that has ignited a food fight in cattle country. Harvest Public Media’s Kristofor Husted walks us through the issues. Charles Bassett wants you to buy hamburgers made from his Missouri cows. That’s why the Missouri rancher wants to pay an extra dollar into an industry-created fund every time he sells one of his cattle. “Me, myself, as an individual producer, as hard as I work and do the best job I can do, I don’t have time to leave my operation and promote my product,” Basset said. “I just don’t have (the time).” Bassett, like all U.S. beef producers, already pays for a federal checkoff, which is responsible for the famous beef commercial with the slogan “Beef: It’s what’s for dinner.” The federal Beef Checkoff program is controversial, however. Some ranchers say the funds aren’t transparent enough and some feel their money isn’t always directed to the right place. State organizations that would add to the beef industry’s bureaucracy have taken the checkoff debate out of Washington D.C. and brought it closer to home. The federal checkoff funds, Bassett said, just don’t go far enough anymore to promote his beef, but adding a state checkoff would help. In all, fourteen states, including Illinois, already have their own state checkoff on the books. Ranchers in Missouri, Iowa and Oklahoma are eying the option, too. North Dakota added a state beef checkoff in 2015. “There are concerns often by state level groups that the national organization may not being doing what would benefit that state the most,” said Gary Williams, a professor of agricultural economics at Texas A&M University. “Then they’ll add a state checkoff.” Williams said decades of research suggests checkoff programs can be slightly effective, but there are so many other variables that affect demand. “Foreign demand, oil problems, and wars and weather, all these other things have a whole lot more effect on demand than promotion does,” he said. “It’s a statistically significant impact but it’s relatively small.” Ranchers in California decided against adding a state checkoff in 2012. Now, some beef producers are lining up against adding required contributions. Roger Allison, a rancher in Howard County, Missouri, falls in line with the opposition. He said the federal checkoff hasn’t really helped him, so why would the state’s version?...more

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