|USCA (September 16, 2008) - In a letter dated August 29, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) filed with the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) its recommended changes for the national mandatory beef checkoff program. USCA’s recommended checkoff enhancements are predicated on making the checkoff more producer-oriented and producer-controlled through improved transparency and governance.
"USCA deeply appreciates the opportunity made available by the CBB to provide comments and recommendations for change to the national beef checkoff program," said Danni Beer, USCA Director and Beef Checkoff Committee Chair, Keldron, SD. "Producers across the country recognize that it’s time to update an aging program to meet the needs of our evolving industry. Producers want and need meaningful changes that will create more autonomy and independence for the beef checkoff. As we move forward with the implementation of country of origin labeling, producers want a well funded marketing program to support their branded product. The enhancements recommended by USCA will be pivotal in building stronger producer support for the checkoff and we’re hopeful that all of these changes will be considered by the CBB."
USCA’s recommendations included the following points:
• Eliminate language in the law requiring that the Operating Committee contract only with established, national non-profit industry-governed organizations, which would permit the CBB to contract directly with vendors and avoid potential conflicts of interested generated by the policy positions of any national organization. USCA recommended eliminating the provision in the law that restricts the Operating Committee from contracting with any non-profit organization established after 1986.
• Establish a periodic referendum for producers on the checkoff program, which would be in addition to the already available petition option for a producer referendum, to provide for additional accountability to producers.
• Direct that a portion of beef checkoff funds collected from U.S. cattle producers be used to promote products derived from cattle that are specifically born, raised and processed in the U.S. Allow importers to use a similar percentage of funds collected from imports to promote imported product.
• Separate the Federation of State Beef Councils from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), creating independence and autonomy for the checkoff program. "Two divisions of the beef checkoff governance system, the CBB and the Federation of State Beef Councils are mandated by the Beef Promotion Act," wrote USCA. "NCBA is a policy-driven organization that is the majority contractor for checkoff funds. We believe that the CBB, the Federation of State Beef Councils and NCBA should become individually independent and autonomous in order to alleviate the impression they are operating as one entity.
• Require the CBB to meet separately from NCBA and all other policy-driven or contracting organizations.
• Remove all policy representatives from Joint Checkoff Committees and require that the representation on those committees reflect the make-up of the Checkoff Operating Committee.
• Require that all funds forwarded by State Beef Councils for use by the National Beef Checkoff program be delivered to the CBB for award by the Beef Checkoff Operating Committee, in a manner similar to how national checkoff funds are expended by the CBB. State Beef Councils should be permitted to earmark such funds to certain specific programs.
• Establish policy that will disallow any checkoff contractor from assuming credit for accomplishments and efforts funded by the national mandatory checkoff program.
• Separate the Beef Checkoff web site from the web site of NCBA.
• Establish policy that will make the planning process for the Beef Checkoff more inclusive. Very few organizations have the opportunity to provide input into potential Checkoff programs and have very little access to contracting opportunities.
• USCA supports the current one dollar per head assessment. USCA will not consider support of an increase in the assessment until meaningful changes are made to improve the transparency and governance of the national mandatory checkoff program, and any increase must be approved through a referendum by producers paying the assessment.
USCA's letter to the CBB can be read in its entirety on the USCA web site at www.uscattlemen.org.