USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service on Friday said farmers and ranchers have until Dec. 10 to weigh in on the agency's plant to create a second industry-funded beef checkoff.
The new order, USDA says, would provide more resources for beef and beef product marketing. It follows USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack's September announcement that he would move forward with creating a new checkoff as beef industry groups failed to reach consensus on key issues affecting management of the initial beef checkoff program.
The one thing the stakeholders could agree on, Vilsack said earlier this week, is that more money is needed in the system for promotion and marketing efforts.
"Beef industry representatives agree that this important program needs more resources. USDA is stepping up at a critical juncture to help achieve the industry's goal," Vilsack said in a Friday statement. "With this action we can boost research investments, increase beef exports, and encourage folks here at home to support American beef producers."
Congress created the first beef checkoff in 1985. At the time, a fee of $1 per-head-of-cattle per producer was assessed to carry out marketing efforts. It has remained the same since then.
USDA expects another checkoff to help the beef industry take in more funds to expand beef's presence through advertising, education, research and new-product development.
Within three years after the assessment begins, a referendum will be conducted to determine whether beef producers favor the program and if it should continue. A second referendum would be held within seven years of the start of the program, USDA says.
Vilsack said last week that the referendum will allow the industry to learn what works and what doesn't work in a beef checkoff program, and in the meantime, raise the needed money.
The announcement received mixed reaction Friday afternoon from cattle groups as the U.S. Cattlemen's Association said the new comment period provides an "important opportunity for producers to take part in the development of what we hope to be a modern and efficient Checkoff."
Affiliates of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, however, said late last month that they would be opposed to a secondary beef checkoff, suggesting it would eliminate connection with grassroots producers.
Beef producers can weigh in on the new assessment plan via the Federal Register. A notice will be posted Nov. 10 with details.
View page two of this story for questions USDA will be asking regarding the new checkoff >>
1. Who should be assessed?
2. What should be the board structure?
• Who is eligible to serve?
• Should there be a relatively large delegate body appointed by the Secretary that would elect and recommend from within itself a smaller board?
• What should be the size of the board?
• What should be the term of office?
3. How should the board be selected?
• Who may nominate eligible candidates to serve?
• What should be the nomination and selection process?
4. What should be the powers and duties of the board?
5. Who has decision-making authority?
• Should funding decisions be made by the full board or a smaller body elected from within this board?
• Should funding decisions be made in conjunction with other organizations such as the Federation of State Beef Councils or the current Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board?
6. How should the assessment rate be determined?
• Should the assessment be a specified amount, a percent of value, or an amount determined by board?
• If a specified amount or a percent of value, should there be provisions for adjustments to the rate by the board, and without subsequent producer referendum?
• Should there be a de minimis exemption for certain size operations or classes of cattle or beef?
• Should there be temporary or permanent provisions for refunds of assessments?
7. How should assessments be collected?
• Should the States or the national board collect the assessment?
• Should be assessment be levied at all points of sale, at slaughter, or at some other time?
8. When should the referenda be conducted?
More details of the notice of inquiry will appear in the Nov. 10, 2014, Federal Register. Comments may be submitted online at www.regulations.gov or sent to Beef Promotion, Research, and Information Order; Research and Promotion Division, Room 2096-S; Livestock, Poultry and Seed Program; AMS, USDA, STOP 0249; 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W.; Washington, D.C. 20250-0249.