A group of ranchers is petitioning USDA against the continuation of the Beef Checkoff program under the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985.
Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) launched a petition in early July, calling for a referendum on the termination of the Beef Checkoff program.
“This is the first step in reclaiming cattle producers’ independence from the government mandated Beef Checkoff program that has been taxing our industry to fund the government’s speech for over 30 years,” said R-CALF Checkoff Committee Chair Vaughn Meyer in a released statement.
USDA approved the petition and it was launched electronically. The petition calls on Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to conduct a referendum for an up or down vote on the termination of the Beef Checkoff program. The law allows the secretary to conduct such a referendum if at least 10 percent of cattle producers in the U.S. request it.
Deputy Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Jennifer Porter wrote in a July 22 correspondence that a number of requirements must be met when gathering producer signature on a petition.
Cattle producers must:
• Have owned, sold or purchased cattle during the 12-month petition period;
• Be 18 years of age or have a parent or guardian co-sign the petition;
• Have authorization to sign the petition if doing so on behalf of a corporation or other entity; and
• Be an eligible producer separate from a group if signing as a group member.
Porter emphasized 10 percent of the nation’s cattle producers must request the referendum, which is around 88,269 producers. The petition will run for 12 months, and as the petition was launched July 2, the petition sign-up period will end July 2, 2021.
USDA will verify the number of signatures and their validity, which will include requesting documentation from a sampling of producers who signed the petition. The secretary will then decide if USDA will conduct a referendum.
However, Porter warned against inappropriate measures to solicit signatures.
“Specifically, AMS has been provided evidence that indicates producers will be entered into a drawing to win $100 in exchange for sharing a post that encourages signing the petition,” she wrote. “This action calls into question the integrity and validity of the process you are using to collect signatures. Monetary inducement is improper.”
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Marty Smith said in a released statement, “NCBA fully supports the producers’ right to have their voices heard on the future of the checkoff… NCBA trusts cattle producers to make the right decisions for our industry, so if some producers feel they need to sign a petition calling for a vote on the Beef Checkoff, then they should sign. If enough sign, then we should vote.”
United States Cattlemen’s Association said their policy explicitly states support for a periodic referendum.
“Our Checkoff Committee will soon review the recently introduced petition for a referendum on the Beef Promotion and Research Order and, as aligns with our stated policy, will make recommendations to our Board of Directors for action,” the group said on their website.
The petition is available at WeNeedABeefCheckOffVote.com. In order to sign the petition, producers must supply their full name, signature, mailing address, phone number, and email address. Producers have until July 2, 2021 to sign the petition. — Anna Miller, WLJ editor