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Agriculture Today

Contract authority for Beef Check-Off Program expands after 25 years

Contract authority for Beef Check-Off Program expands after 25 years
Texas Beef Council Executive Vice President Richard Wortham presents a Beef Check-off Program retrospective during the Independent Cattlemen’s Association of Texas convention held in mid-June in San Marcos.

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Wilson County News
September 5, 2012
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A change could be in store with the Beef Check-off Program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service announced Aug. 24 that an expansion of potential contractors for the Beef Check-off Program will be allowed.

This action follows a March 2 Federal Register posting that would amend the Beef Promotion and Research Act to allow contractors that “have been active and ongoing for at least two years.” Prior to this, only nonprofit organizations that were active at the time the Beef Check-off Program became effective were able to serve as check-off contractors.

The Beef Check-off Program was part of the 1985 Farm Bill and became effective July 18, 1986. The program assesses $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.

This action, when final, could open the door for more than 100 organizations to qualify 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.

According to the Aug. 24 USDA press release, “several beef industry organizations met recently and agreed that it was necessary to expand the contracting authority established under the Act and Order to uphold the integrity of the Beef Check-off Program.”

Looking back 25 years

Cattlemen attending the Independent Cattlemen’s Association of Texas convention in San Marcos in mid-June had the opportunity to listen to Richard Wortham, Texas Beef Council executive vice president. Wortham’s presentation gave an overview of the first 25 years of the Beef Check-off Program.

Advertising campaigns, such as “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner,” are among the most-recognized programs funded by the check-off dollars, he said.

The check-off program has assisted in an increase of carcass value, Wortham said. For example, under-utilized muscles, such as chuck, have increased per-head value by $60. The funding used for research also is credited for an increase in lean cuts, from seven to 29.

The beef industry investment via check-off money also has reduced E. coli O157:H7 cases by more than 80 percent, Wortham said.

Check-off dollars were instrumental in maintaining consumer confidence in beef during the first bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) incident, dubbed the “Cow that Stole Christmas,” in December 2003. Funding again was used in the rally to defend beef during the most recent controversy over lean, finely textured beef, dubbed “pink slime” by the media.

A portion of the check-off funds is used for the Beef Quality Assurance program, to assist producers in herd-management practices, Wortham said.

Wortham also addressed meeting the global demand for beef. At the time the check-off program was initiated, the global population was 2.5 billion. Today, it is 7.5 billion and is predicted to increase to 9 billion by the year 2050.

Since 96 percent of the world’s population resides outside of the United States, Wortham said there is an opportunity for America to promote U.S. grain-fed beef to the international market. The export value of U.S. beef was $136.46 per 100 pounds in 2003 and rose to $206.37 per 100 pounds in 2011.

National cattle and agriculture-related organizations have united to work for the continuance of the program, which does not include federal funds, but builds beef demand here and abroad.

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