NFU, USCA Support Proposed Amendment to Expand Beef Checkoff Contracting Authority

13 03 2012

WASHINGTON (March 13, 2012) – National Farmers Union (NFU) and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) fully support the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture Marketing Service’s (AMS) proposed amendment to expand beef checkoff contracting authority under the Beef Promotion and Research Order. AMS published its proposed amendment in the March 2, 2012, Federal Register, responding to a request from a number of cattle groups that participated in an industry-wide meeting hosted by NFU and USCA last September.

The proposed amendment will change the current date requirement in the order so that organizations otherwise qualified could be eligible to contract with the Beef Promotion Operating Committee (BPOC) for the implementation and conduct of beef checkoff programs if the organizations have been active and operating for at least two years.

The Beef Act was passed by Congress as part of the 1985 Farm Bill and the program became effective on July 18, 1986 when the Order was issued by USDA.  The checkoffs per head assessments began on Oct. 1, 1986. Language in the Order requires the BPOC to contract with organizations, which qualify as “established, national non-profit, industry-governed organizations that were active and ongoing before Congress passed the Beef Act to implement programs of promotion, research, consumer information and industry information.”  While the law itself does not define criteria for “national, non-profit, industry-governed organizations” the order states that these organizations must be governed by a board of directors representing the cattle or beef industry on a national basis and that the groups were active and ongoing prior to enactment of the Act by Congress. Amending the order does not require statutory action by Congress and can be accomplished by publishing proposed amendments in the Federal Register soliciting comments.

USCA President Jon Wooster commented on the organization’s work with Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., on this issue, “Sen. Tester was the first to take the lead on enhancing the Beef Checkoff. Sen. Tester and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association have remained engaged on this issue for several years and we appreciate the strong leadership and support that the Senator has provided.”

Wooster says his organization will be filing comments supporting the proposed change and he encourages all cattle groups to do so as well.  “USCA is very pleased with USDA’s responsiveness on this matter and we appreciate the agency’s efforts to enhance the overall beef checkoff. While this amendment, and what it will accomplish, is certainly a step in the right direction, we also know that there is more work to be done to increase support for the checkoff among its stakeholders. USCA looks forward to being the catalyst for further change in the program in order to ensure the checkoff’s credibility, transparency, accountability, and that all producers have a voice in how their checkoff dollars are invested.”

“This is the first of many positive steps that need to be taken to continue to strengthen producer confidence in the checkoff program and expand organizational diversity,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “There have been several organizations developed since 1985 that represent cattlemen across this country and they should have the same access to request checkoff dollars as everyone else.”

A 60-day public comment period on the proposed amendment closes on May 2, 2012. Comments must be posted online at www.regulations.gov or sent to Craig Shackelford, Agricultural Marketing Specialist, Marketing Programs Division, Livestock and Seed Program, Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA, Room 2628-S, STOP 0251, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20250-0251; or fax to (202) 720-1125. All comments should reference docket number AMS-LS-11-0086, March 2, 2012 Federal Register, pages 12752-12754. Comments will be available for public inspection at the aforementioned address, as well as on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov/.

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