MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — Western states beef producer Mike Callicrate isn’t shy about his dislike for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the beef checkoff program.
He shared his dislike in Wooster and Mount Vernon Feb. 25, just days before Ohio beef producers vote on a ballot measure of whether to increase their state beef checkoff.
In that measure, voters will be asked whether the state checkoff should be increased from $1 to $2 a head. In-person voting will be held March 18-20 at the Ohio Department of Agriculture and Ohio State University Extension local offices.
According to Callicrate, checkoffs support large-scale agriculture — the biggest opponent to what he considers “real farmers,” — farms that are run by families and independents.
Callicrate is a founding member of an organization called the Organization for Competitive Markets, which opposes livestock checkoff programs, and advocates for a fair market.
“They’re (cattlemen’s association) going to force you to promote industrial agriculture in the interest of the big meat packers through an increased checkoff,” he said.
Callicrate, who bills himself as a champion for family farms, said he wants to defund NCBA, which is “on the other side of the table of every issue we care about.”
Farm and Dairy talked with NCBA’s immediate past president and Wyoming beef producer and dairyman, Scott George, about the national checkoff, and Ohio’s effort to increase its own checkoff.
“It’s designed to help everyone,” George said, from consumers to large and small producers. “We feel like every time the consumer chooses beef, we’ve won.”
He said it makes sense why Ohio would want to increase its checkoff, given that it dates back to 1985 and hasn’t been increased since. There’s been a lot of inflation over those years, and fewer cattle being sold at auction, which means fewer dollars being collected for the program.
As for “family farmers,” he said that’s a relative term, and that the definition he goes by shows that 97 percent of farms in the United States are family-owned.
“Are they large, yeah … some are larger and some are smaller,” he said. “(They’ve) become very, very efficient at what we do.”George said the checkoff is a way to not only promote the beef product, but also provide research to the entire beef industry, and those outside the industry.
This information helps promote the beef industry, and also defend it against attacks from animal rights groups.
That, Scott said, is one thing he doesn’t understand about OCM, which has a close partnership with members of Humane Society of the United States.
“HSUS has been very public about their desire to eliminate animal agriculture and I’m in agriculture,” George said. “I do not understand how a partnership with someone who wants to put me out of business is good for me.”
Supporters of the HSUS-agriculture alliance say they gain credibility because of the size of HSUS (11-miilion plus). And, they advance a shared set of values against animal cruelty and industrial agriculture.
Callicrate said HSUS is not the organization it’s been portrayed to be. He said it got a bad image because of a guy named Rick Berman, who coordinates a watchdog organization, HumaneWatch, which presents facts and opinions from the farm industry about HSUS.
George isn’t convinced.“I keep thinking they’ve picked up a snake,” he said. “I don’t understand their strategy.”The strategy of NCBA, he said, is to “keep beef on the plate.”