Organizations Consider Referendum on Beef Checkoff

NCBA and the Beef Checkoff have recently come under the microscope due to actions which seem to be contrary to the interests of independent cattle producers. It leaves many producers questioning the value and validity of the Beef Checkoff as an institution. As is, producers have questions regarding the transparency of how the assessments are spent and their value back through the supply chain.


Research and Promotion are two programs to which the Beef Checkoff focuses. Funding for processed lunchbox meat development and daily dietician messages as well as exhibitions at the Great American Beer Festival were part of the Promotional Funding with the North American Meat Institute. NCBA received over $9 million alone to promote artificial intelligence tools and to manage the “Beef. It’s what’s for Dinner” campaign.


Another $9 million was awarded for research, including but not limited to studies on beef’s role in health, benchmark assessments of alternative proteins sold at retail and food service, and showcasing safety program research. And just like any wise business person must ask, what value am I capturing as a result of this expenditure?


In a time like now, where it’s difficult to capture enough value to cover inputs, another dollar per head is simply another dollar to add to that year’s loss. This fact alone, is enough for producers to question the Beef Checkoff assessments. What we know: the Beef Checkoff doesn’t have the power to help producers in the USA distinguish their beef from their foreign counterparts, it doesn’t have the funds to promote beef like it once did the ‘80s & ‘90s, and it doesn’t have the regulatory oversight warranted by such a large budget.


The Beef Checkoff is a hot potato of a topic, and the legislature would like to keep itself socially distanced from this perceived nightmare. The regulators aren’t much help either, and ultimately producers raising questions just get the run around.


In Fiscal Year 2019, the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) conducted an economic study to measure the return on beef producers’ and importers’ investments into the national portion of the Beef Checkoff program* over the past 5-year period, 2014-2018. NOTE: The study only pertains to the funds collected for the national Beef Checkoff program. It does not account for the portion of funds retained by the qualified state beef councils for the state-level efforts. State Beef Councils retain half of the assessments, so this study is 50% deceiving from the onset. The study found that for every dollar invested, there is a $11.91 to Beef Industry Producer Profit.


The Beef Checkoff is a convoluted mess of intertwined organizations, many of which are focused on beefing up the Federation of State Beef Councils. It is an easy institution to hate, and far much easier to just ignore altogether.


Will we see a successful referendum in our lifetimes? Likely not, but it could be interesting to see the real number of cattle producers that actually agree it’s a positive for the industry.


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