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Agriculture Today

Ag groups to host nationwide meetings on beef check-off

Ag groups to host nationwide meetings on beef check-off
Leadership from the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association and the National Farmers Union meet with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials to discuss the beef check-off program the week of July 18 in Washington, D.C. Among the attendees were (from left) USDA Under Secretary of Marketing and Regulatory Programs Ed Avalos; Kelly Fogarty, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association deputy director of government and industry relations; John Kerstiens, director of government affairs, South Dakota Farmers Union; Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack; U.S. Cattlemen’s Association Vice President Chuck Kiker of Texas, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association Director Emeritus Leo McDonnell of Montana; and U.S. Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Jess Peterson.

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August 9, 2011
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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association released a joint letter July 27 from the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association and the National Farmers Union to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack indicating the two groups will host a national discussion of the beef check-off and the program’s future.

On July 1, the cattlemen’s association requested Vilsack’s intervention into the controversy surrounding the beef check-off. Representatives of the cattlemen’s association and the National Farmers Union were in Washington, D.C., the week of July 18 to meet with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials about the check-off program. The groups said that after conferring with the secretary as well as other national cattle, farm, and marketing organizations, the decision was made to proceed with plans to host industry-wide meetings to seek consensus on the divisive issues that are eroding investor trust and confidence in the beef check-off and threatening the very future of the program.

The cattlemen’s association and the farmer’s union said the time has come for an expanded cattle industry-wide discussion of the check-off that will go beyond the policy changes being addressed by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board held during the Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Florida, Aug. 1-4.

“The upcoming Farm Bill process in Congress presents an excellent legislative opportunity to make enhancements to the beef check-off,” wrote the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association and the National Farmers Union. “The planned industry-wide meetings will provide an opportunity for an agreement within the cattle industry on amending the Beef Promotion Act and Order to achieve the changes necessary for meaningful reform of the program.”

While logistics are currently being worked out, the cattlemen’s association and the farmers union say the initial meeting will likely be held in a central location served by major airlines to make travel as efficient as possible for participants.

U.S. Cattlemen’s Association President Jon Wooster of San Lucas, Calif., said the industry-wide talks will be all-inclusive and that all national groups with cattle interests will be invited to participate and that USDA and Cattlemen’s Beef Board officials will also be involved in the process.

“We will be moving forward methodically and expediently to organize the first of what could be a series of meetings,” Wooster said. “While we hope that the CBB [Cattlemen’s Beef Board] meeting in Florida ... is positive and productive and results in the adoption of the proposed ‘Roles and Responsibilities’ recommendations, we also know that there is a more expansive discussion to be held and that it should incorporate the interests of all check-off investors. This is an exciting opportunity to help shape the check-off program’s future.”

To read the entire letter to Vilsack, visit www.uscattlemen.org.

Editor’s note: Members of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board approved the proposed “Roles and Responsibilities” recommendations in Florida, according to Jess Peterson on Aug. 3. Peterson is unsure of the final language approved by the board at the time of the e-mail sent to the USCA board of directors.

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