Not enough signatures for beef referendum

WASHINGTON – The USDA announced Jan. 17 that not enough valid petitions were received to require a referendum on the beef checkoff.

Making the announcement, Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Kathleen A. Merrigan said Pricewaterhouse Coopers reviewed the petitions and determined that the number of valid petitions submitted to USDA was insufficient to trigger a referendum.

The Beef Promotion and Research Act provides for a referendum if requested by 10 percent of all cattle producers in the United States. USDA determined this number to be 107,883 producers.

PwC conducted a 100 percent hand count of the actual petitions and determined that the Livestock Marketing Association submitted 127,927 petitions to USDA. PwC estimates that no more than 83,464 petitions were valid (65.2 percent).

LMA has a federal court hearing scheduled today (Jan. 25), claiming the validation program is “so inherently flawed” that it cannot produce “any meaningful results.” The plaintiffs are asking the court to force the USDA to hold a referendum.

“Although the number of petitions submitted to USDA is not sufficient to trigger a referendum, thousands of beef producers have clearly signaled their concern over the beef checkoff program,” Merrigan said.

A USDA task force on research and promotion programs has recommended that all checkoff programs be the subject of continuance referenda every five years to ensure that the programs have industry support.

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