USDA takes Tester’s advice, makes beef checkoff change

 Senator pushed for change giving Montana ranchers more control of checkoff dollars

 

(U.S. SENATE) – Responding to pressure from Senator Jon Tester, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will consider allowing Montana ranchers more control over their beef checkoff dollars.

 

Beef checkoff dollars promote beef through a $1 fee that producers pay on each head of cattle sold.  The money supports marketing initiatives like the “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner” campaign.

 

Previously only organizations established before 1985 could compete to manage ranchers’ checkoff dollars, a restriction that Tester says “led to a lack of representation” among beef industry groups.

 

Tester introduced legislation in 2008 requiring the change that the USDA is now considering.  In a letter, Tester praised the USDA for moving forward and allowing the beef industry more say in how it researches and promotes beef.

 

“The beef industry has changed considerably since the checkoff was instituted in 1985, and thousands of ranchers now belong to national groups organized in the decades since,” Tester wrote David Simpson, head of the Agriculture Marketing Service.  “Allowing newer organizations to fully participate will benefit producers, the checkoff, and the industry.”

 

“Senator Tester has been a strong advocate for U.S. cattle producers and an important partner for the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association as we have worked to enhance beef checkoff,” said Jon Wooster, President of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association.   “Lifting restrictions that limit the number of organizations eligible to conduct checkoff-funded work opens the door for fresh, new ideas about promoting beef.”  

 

Only the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association met the 1985 requirement. 

 

Tester called on all Montanans interested in the issue to comment by May 1.

 

Tester’s Beef Checkoff Modernization Act, first introduced in 2008, also required that 30 percent of checkoff marketing promote beef from cattle exclusively born and raised in the United StatesIt is available online HERE

 

Tester’s letter to David Simpson, Acting Administrator of the Agriculture Marketing Service, which is a branch of the USDA, is available below and online HERE

 

###

 

March 5, 2012

 

The Honorable David R. Shipman  

Acting Administrator

Agricultural Marketing Service

United Stated Department of Agriculture

1400 Independence Ave. SW

Washington D.C., 20250

 

Dear Acting Administrator Shipman,

 

I am writing in response to the Agricultural Marketing Service’s announcement today that the agency is proposing an expansion of contracting authority for the beef checkoff. I applaud this long awaited step that will give producers greater control over their checkoff dollars. I have advocated for increasing the breadth of organizations eligible to compete for checkoff contracts since 2008, when I introduced the Beef Checkoff Modernization Act. That bill, like the agency’s new proposal, would have eliminated the requirement that only producer organizations in operation since 1985 may compete for checkoff contracts.

 

The beef industry has changed considerably since the checkoff was instituted in 1985, and thousands of ranchers now belong to national groups organized in the decades since. However, the checkoff rules have always restricted promotion contracts to “established national non-profit industry-governed organizations” that have been in place since before the checkoff was implemented. In practice, this has meant that all of these organizations which were established since 1985 have been excluded. This has led to a lack of representation of the variety of industry voices in the management of the checkoff. Allowing newer organizations to fully participate will benefit producers, the checkoff, and the industry as a whole.

 

I appreciate this movement by the agency, and I look forward to working with you to further improve the beef checkoff.

 

Sincerely,

(s)

Jon Tester

United States Senator

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