Forty-five state cattlemens' associations sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Tuesday, urging him not to issue an order for a supplemental beef checkoff under the 1996 General Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act.
Bob McCan, National Cattlemen's Beef Association president, says the letter sends a clear message to USDA and the NCBA will support the state organizations' stance.
"NCBA stands firmly behind our grassroots producer organizations and we will do everything we can to support their efforts. The checkoff belongs to cattlemen, not to the USDA or any administration."
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack earlier this month said a second beef checkoff could be in order after beef group representatives on a working group to discuss changes to the initial checkoff couldn't reach consensus.
Discussions among the working group, which includes the NCBA, American Farm Bureau, the Cattlemen's Beef Board and others, began in 2011. Recently, the National Farmers Union, also a member of the working group, exited on concerns that a consensus could not be reached.
The U.S. Cattlemen's Association also said it was concerned with the group's trajectory and confirmed it would support a USDA-facilitated overhaul.
NCBA affiliates, however, are concerned that a secondary beef checkoff would eliminate connection with grassroots producers.
There is no required element of the 1996 Act that increases grassroots influence in national checkoff efforts, NCBA says, and the 1996 Act assures no protection to state beef councils.
According to the group, it also gives "much greater power to the federal government."
"The Beef Checkoff is a non-political, non-partisan structure designed by cattle producers to increase and support beef demand," McCan said. "The Beef Checkoff serves all beef producers, nationwide, and the recent efforts by Secretary Vilsack do not serve the interests of producers, they only serve to politicize and polarize the industry.
"We are focused on how the Beef Checkoff can do more to support cattlemen and women; the Administration has focused on how they can use the Beef Checkoff for political spoils and to increase the control of the federal government."
Vilsack, however, told Feedstuffs' Andy Vance last week that the move is intended to improve the cash flow for research and promotion projects.
"I'm trying to help the industry," he said.