Vilsack abandons beef checkoff plan

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WASHINGTON — USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack withdrew his proposal to create a second beef checkoff program Dec. 19.

Vilsack’s announcement came after a month of public comment on the proposal, and an official rejection of it by Congress.

In an email statement to Farm and Dairy, a USDA spokesperson said the second beef checkoff program was designed to help the industry find a way to generate more resources for beef research and promotion.

“For the last several years the industry was unable to agree how best to do that,” the statement read. “The proposal for a second checkoff program was designed to help the industry achieve its goal.

“However, as the appropriations bill Congress passed last week directed the Department not to implement a second beef checkoff program, USDA will no longer pursue that solution.

“USDA encourages the beef industry to work together to determine ways to secure more resources for the beef checkoff program so that it can continue to support cattle ranchers around the country.”

Vilsack called for the supplemental checkoff program, under the 1996 Generic Commodity Research and Information Act, on Sept. 30. He cited the inability of a beef checkoff work group to reach substantial agreement, over the past three years, on enhancements to the current checkoff program.

The impetus for establishing the 11-member work group was a decline in revenues through the assessment program.

The second checkoff proposal called for an additional $1 per head assessment and was expected to begin in 2015 or 2016, continuing for three years before a producer referendum could be called.

The current beef checkoff program was established as part of the 1985 farm bill as a means of raising funds for beef promotion and research via a $1 per head assessment on the nation’s beef producers. Changes to the program can only be made by an act of Congress.

Prior to Vilsack’s announcement, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association spokesperson Chase Adams said it was expected that Vilsack would “respect the intent of Congress.”

“We at the NCBA are continuing to work with the beef checkoff working group to enhance the (current) checkoff,” Adams said.

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