National Farmers Union board of directors voted to withdraw from the beef checkoff working group, effective immediately. NFU President Roger Johnson released the following statement:
“After three years of pushing for real reforms in the beef check-off program, NFU has decided that the process has become a bridge to nowhere and a waste of time and resources. The working group was designed to bring together vested parties from across the beef industry and to attempt to reach a consensus on substantial reforms that would make the check-off a stronger, more effective tool for the beef industry. Sadly, it has become clear that in reality, there is no willingness from key players within the group to allow real reforms to take place. NFU remains willing and eager to engage with others who are interested in reforming the beef checkoff, such that it operates in a manner like other checkoff programs.”
The resolution adopted by the NFU board states:
NFU has been working for the past three years to reform the beef checkoff system with other beef industry stakeholders. In accordance with NFU’s 2014 national convention Special Order of Business on the beef checkoff, NFU is hereby withdrawing from this working group, as the process is unlikely to result in necessary reform. It is time for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to react to beef producers’ demand to reform this system.
The following reforms are necessary:
The Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) must have the authority to carry out checkoff projects on its own, similar to other checkoff oversight boards.
The CBB must be allowed to enter into checkoff contracts with non-policy organizations and private companies, such as ad agencies and public relations firms, in order to prevent policy-driven organizations from using checkoff dollars to fund overhead for political activity.
The beef checkoff must be completely refundable.
A referendum on the continuation of the beef checkoff must occur every five years.
It is our recommendation that USDA consider rewriting the beef check off program under the 1996 generic research and promotion act.
During the recently completed NFU legislative fly-in to Washington, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack told Farmers Union members, “To continue doing what we’re doing is satisfactory to no one. Ultimately, this will require producer involvement. Producers don’t get off the hook by delegating authority to the secretary of agriculture.” Still, Vilsack said he would take action to address the issue and that he would have little sympathy for those who may object to his decisions, as all concerned parties had their chance find common ground.