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National petition drive underway to end Beef Checkoff Program

News Staff - July 13, 2020

BILLINGS, MONT. – Strategically, it’s an opportune time for opponents of the Beef Checkoff Program to launch another national petition drive to end it. The level of frustration and distrust out in the country is sky high for a number of reasons.

The program’s highest paid contractor at $27,383,347 in beef checkoff dollars, is the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). How it spends those dollars is often at odds with many commercial producers (and most recently feeders) across the country. At no time in recent history has that been more evident than in 2019-2020.

Separate from its checkoff funded programs (to be used only for increasing consumer education and demand)  NCBA’s policy division is opposing legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate to mandate higher negotiated cash trade in the cattle industry by processing plants that slaughter more than 125,000 cattle per year.  Proponents say it would restore both transparent price discovery in the fed cattle market and the fundamentals of the CME cattle futures contracts. Opponents (including NCBA and packers) say it will force many producers to change the way they market their cattle.

And then there’s those lagging investigations into drastic price spreads between live cattle and boxed beef prices going on since last summer - with no developments. And opposition to Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (MCOOL).

Neither the proposed Senate legislation or other issues like MCOOL are tied to funding through the Beef Checkoff Program.  But when the primary contractor receiving beef checkoff dollars is also the loudest voice opposing market changes that many in the industry are demanding, perceptions become blurred.

 “This is the first step in reclaiming cattle producers’ independence from the government mandated beef checkoff program that has been taxing our industry to fund the government’s speech for over 30 years,” R-CALF USA Checkoff Committee Chair Vaughn Meyer Meyer said.

With approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the petition was launched electronically. 

The petition calls on the Secretary of Agriculture to conduct a referendum for an up or down vote on the termination of the Beef Checkoff Program. Current law provides authority to the Secretary to conduct a referendum if requested by at least 10 percent of the number of cattle producers in the United States. The petition states that at least 88,269 eligible U.S. cattle producers are needed to sign the petition.

Eligible cattle producers can sign the petition from now until July 1, 2021, the date that the time period to collect signatures expires.

Only eligible cattle producers may sign the petition. They are defined as:
Any cattle producer regardless of age who has owned, sold or purchased cattle from July 2, 2020 – July 1, 2021 is eligible to sign the petition.
Any person younger than 18 years of age must have a parent or guardian co-sign the petition.
A person who signs the petition on behalf of a corporation or other entity must be authorized to do so. No proxy signature is permitted.
Any individual member of a group, who is an eligible person separate from the group, may request a referendum separately.

Individual ranchers and farm and ranch groups that launched the petition include the South Dakota Livestock Markets Association, 25 individual livestock auction yards, eight county, state, and national cattle associations, including R-CALF USA, one general farm organization, three individual ranchers, and one individual. Their names and information are included on the original notice to the USDA that the petition has been launched pursuant to current law.

The petition is available for electronic signatures, here

Phone number: 605-347-4455
E-mail: [email protected]
Address: 1612 Junction Avenue, Suite #1
Sturgis, SD 57785