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Moves to Improve Beef Checkoff Under Fire

18 March 2015

US - Beef producers in the US have hit out at the way the beef sector is attempting to improve the Beef Checkoff system.

The system of levies to support and promote beef in the US has been under scrutiny by the beef industry and the government for some time.

Now National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson (pictured) said that ongoing conversations about how to improve the beef checkoff have again failed to lead to greater producer comfort with how the checkoff is handled.

He said the producers strongly opposed the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group (BCEWG) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the checkoff that was agreed upon last week.

“Since the very beginning of this process several years ago, NFU has hoped that these ongoing discussions would lead to a beef checkoff program that was not controlled by a single policy organization and focused its resources primarily on research and promotion instead of lobbying,” said Mr Johnson.

“When it became clear that these changes would never happen, NFU withdrew from the process altogether.”

Mr Johnson’s comments were made at the conclusion of a two-day meeting that sought a consensus memorandum of understanding among cattle producers about how to move forward with meaningful and needed enhancements in the beef checkoff programme.

US Cattlemen’s Association has refused to sign the MOU.

Two major groups representing cattlemen, NFU and USCA, have either left the BCEWG or refused to sign the MOU.

The BCEWG has failed to reach consensus on a path forward for the beef checkoff.

According to teh cattlemen and the farmers’ union, the MOU fails to make revisions that would result in reform for the way the checkoff operates.

The MOU also proposes a refundable increase in the assessment of $1. It also allows for national lobbying organisations that are major recipients of checkoff dollars to be on the nominating committee for the Beef Promotion Operating Committee (BPOC).

The BPOC decides who receives contracts for checkoff dollars. This creates a clear conflict of interest for the checkoff.

Mr Johnson pointed out that NFU’s vision for the beef checkoff would ensure that control of the program is held by producers who are actively involved in production agriculture; would exclusively promote domestic product; would exclude processors from positions of leadership and financial responsibility, and would review referendums executed by USDA every five years offering a program recall in the event of a simple majority vote; and would prohibit.

“The MOU is honestly a waste of everyone’s time because it will fail to achieve the real reforms that need to be made,” said Mr Johnson.

TheMeatSite News Desk

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