Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Washington lawmakers torn over beef industry rift

by Don Jenkins

A Washington lawmaker vetting a proposal to raise the beef checkoff by $1 says he’s not sure what to do about the contentious issue. Rep. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake, has been meeting with segments of the beef industry for seven months on whether to hike the per head tax on cattle sales to $2.50 from $1.50. He said Tuesday that the industry remains divided. “I don’t know if I’m taking a position at this time,” Dent said. The beef checkoff emerged as an issue in the 2016 Legislature. At $1.50, the fee raises about $500,000 annually for the national Cattlemen’s Beef Board and another $1 million for the Washington Beef Commission, a state agency funded entirely by the checkoff. The Washington Cattlemen’s Association and the Washington Cattle Feeders Association supported raising the fee, doubling the state’s commission yearly budget to about $2 million. The Cattle Producers of Washington, however, rallied enough opposition from ranchers to stop the proposal. Dent volunteered to examine the intra-industry rift and report back to fellow lawmakers in time for the 2017 session. “It’s been an interesting ride for the last seven months,” he said. “These meetings could sometimes be contentious, but they were passionate, and I love that. It’s what makes America great.”...more

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