Beef leaders get info on National Beef Checkoff Program

Wisconsin State Farmer
Dawn Caldwell (left) Nebraska beef producer and Chair of the Federation of State Beef Councils joins Wisconsin members (from left) beef producer James Rychtik and Teri Mejchar, Belgium, WI, and Jayde Farbo, Wisconsin Beef Council communications coordinator and director of on-line marketing.

CENTENNIAL, CO - Trust, knowledge and understanding are the foundations on which strong partnerships are built. That’s the central idea behind an annual orientation for state beef council directors and staffs coordinated by the Federation of State Beef Councils.

About 70 directors and staff from 28 state beef councils from across the country attended the 2017 orientation, held March 13-14 at the headquarters of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in Centennial, CO. NCBA is the home of the Federation of State Beef Councils, and a contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program.

“It’s important for our state partners to know the big picture of the Beef Checkoff Program, and where each piece fits,” said Todd Johnson, NCBA senior vice president of Federation Services. “The producers who designed the national program back in 1985 worked hard to create a program that not only could be effective and efficient at building beef demand, but respected the state and national framework that existed at the time. We have found that the better our leaders and producers at all levels understand how it works, the more they can get behind it.”

On tap for attendees at this year’s session were presentations on beef checkoff history, collections and the Beef Promotion and Research Act and Order by executives of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board; as well as explanations by NCBA staff of the checkoff-related role of the Federation and the NCBA and how checkoff and non-checkoff dollars are kept separate.

Lucy Rechel, a board member of the Nevada Beef Council, said the experience was helpful to better understand the “nuts and bolts of the checkoff, as well as what’s being done with the dollars.” More than that, though, she thinks the information presented might help state board members to “think outside of the box.”

“It’s often difficult to decide what to do with checkoff dollars,” Rechel said. “That’s especially true in these times of limited funds. But while we might not have enough dollars to do some big programs, maybe there are some smaller efforts we can make. These kinds of sessions help us identify and better understand those options.”

Part of the orientation was a tour of the NCBA offices, including the Beef Culinary Center, the studio of the NCBA Cattlemen to Cattlemen television program and a digital command center that helps monitor the attitudes and trends of consumers across the United States.

“As beef producers, we have no idea how fast technology has been running away from us,” Rechel said. “Our checkoff-funded beef industry effort has definitely become more sophisticated.”

Tracking the Dollars

Among the presentations valuable to Andy Berry, executive director of the Mississippi Beef Council, were ones that described how checkoff dollars were managed at the national level.

Duane Lenz of CattleFax, makes a presentation to the group during the 2017 orientation.

“The information about all of the areas the checkoff is doing work on our behalf was very helpful,” Berry says. “Just as helpful, though, was learning more about the firewall that keeps checkoff money going where it should.”

The Beef Checkoff Program is administered by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, with oversight provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The checkoff was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill, and assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products.

States retain up to 50 cents of the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board. In addition to conducting in-state programs, state beef council boards may choose to forward additional funds from their 50 cents for use in national and international education, promotion and research programs.