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Agriculture Today

Ag group voices opposition to beef checkoff

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May 14, 2014 | 3,899 views | Post a comment

The big beef industry wants to double the tax that cattle owners pay for every sale of their animals, according to an April 29 Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance press release. Under the federal “checkoff” program, a farmer is already legally required to pay $1 for every head of cattle sold. This added up to over $11 million in taxes on Texas farmers and ranchers last year. Now large industry groups want to add a state checkoff program.

From June 2 through June 6, Texas cattle owners will be able to approve or reject the proposal by voting at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service county offices. In addition to giving a very narrow window of time, the Texas Beef Council has failed to reach out to cattle owners to let them know about the referendum.

“In other states, votes on increased checkoff fees have been decided by less than 10 percent of all cattle owners,” said Judith McGeary, cattle owner and executive director of Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance. “The big industry groups are only telling people that they expect to vote yes, and they are making no effort to educate the average cattle owner. This is not a fair democratic process.”

The money is spent on advertising campaigns such as “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner,” as well as salaries and benefits for a large staff. The claim is that the advertising is supposed to help Texas farmers’ cattle and beef sales. But meatpacking companies like Tyson and Cargill, as well as national grocery store chains, are the ones who really benefit.

“With this checkoff increase, we will be paying to promote an imported product that has the potential to put our own herds at risk for foot-and-mouth disease, add supply, and reduce prices,” said Mark Hannan, owner of Twin Lakes Dairy in Van Zandt County, Texas.

Checkoff promotions do not distinguish between beef raised in Texas or beef raised in other parts of the United States and foreign imports. Much of the beef sold in grocery stores comes from other countries, such as Australia, Brazil, and Mexico. Yet Texas farmers and ranchers will be forced to pay the bill.

“There’s nothing stopping the beef industry from having a voluntary marketing program, funded by those who see a benefit from it,” McGeary pointed out. “We don’t need yet more taxes imposed on our farmers and ranchers.”

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