Beef Check-off may receive a face lift
After more than 25 years in existence, new groups may soon join the four organizations that serve as contractors in the Beef Check-off Program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service is currently accepting comments to changes in the Beef Promotion and Research Act to expand the contracting authority.
The Beef Check-off Program was part of the 1985 Farm Bill and became effective July 18, 1986. Since then, only nonprofit organizations that were active at that time were able to serve as beef check-off contractors.
The Beef Check-off Program involves an assessment of $1 per head on the sale of domestic and imported cattle and an equivalent assessment on imported beef products. The funding is used for research, education, and the promotion of beef and beef products.
According to the March 2 Federal Register posting, the proposed change would amend the Act to read, “have been active and ongoing for at least two years.” If the proposed rules are accepted, the rules are “not intended to have retroactive effect.” Current contracts won’t be affected.
According to the USDA website, more than 100 organizations qualify to serve as contractors. In 2011, the four contractors of the Beef Board included the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the American National Cattlewomen, the U.S. Meat Export Federation, and the Meat Importers Council of America.
Currently, cattle operations totalled approximately 935,000 within the United States, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service in 2010, with many classified as small entities. The proposed rules impose no new burden on the industry.
Time for a change?
The proposed change has been in the works since 2006, when a task force initiated by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the American Farm Bureau was asked to “review, study, and recommend enhancements to the Beef Check-off Program for the purpose of strengthening the Beef Check-off Program for the common good of the beef industry.”
In September 2006, producer and industry representatives, with the USDA serving as advisors, recommended the proposed change for more organizations to participate, to bring “new perspectives to the contracting process.”
The Cattlemen’s Beef Board, which oversees the check-off program, in February 2008 asked the Agricultural Marketing Service for a program review. One year later, the Beef Board also asked for the recommendation for expansion.
The final meeting, prior to the Federal Register posting, was held Sept. 27, 2011, in Minnesota, when the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association and the National Farmers Union co-hosted an industry meeting, as requested by Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Representatives from six other groups, including two of the four current contractors, attended the September 2011 meeting. The end result was a joint letter by most of the organizations requesting this change in the program.
Comments will be accepted until Wednesday, May 2. See “Comment submission” for more information.
A 60-day public comment period on the proposed amendment to the Beef Check-off Program closes on Wednesday, May 2. Comments can be:
•Posted online at www.regulations.gov
•Sent to Craig Shackelford, Agricultural Marketing Specialist, Marketing Programs Division, Livestock and Seed Program, Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA, Room 2628-S, STOP 0251, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, D.C. 20250-0251
•Faxed to 202-720-1125.
All comments should reference docket number AMS-LS-11-0086, March 2, 2012 Federal Register, pages 12752-12754.
Comments will be available for public inspection at the aforementioned address, and online at http://www.regulations.gov/.
Source: March 2 Federal Register