The National Farmers Union board of directors will vote Sept. 6 on its legislative committee’s recommendation that the organization withdraw from the Beef Checkoff Working Group. The group has been trying to reach consensus on changes to the beef checkoff, an NFU spokesman told The Hagstrom Report last week.
“NFU is hereby withdrawing from this working group, as the process is unlikely to result in necessary reform,” was an NFU comment relayed on the Missouri Farmers Union website.
The following recommendations by the legislative committee were sent to the checkoff group Aug. 19, as a “courtesy,” the spokesman told The Hagstrom Report.
“NFU has been working for the past three years to reform the beef checkoff system with other beef industry stakeholders. In accordance with NFU’s 2014 national convention special order of business on the beef checkoff, NFU is hereby withdrawing from this working group, as the process is unlikely to result in necessary reform. It is time for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to react to beef producers’ demand to reform this system.”
“The following reforms are necessary:
• The CBB [Cattlemen’s Beef Board] must have the authority to carry out checkoff projects on its own, similar to other checkoff oversight boards.
• The CBB must be allowed to enter into checkoff contracts with non-policy organizations and private companies, such as ad agencies and public relations firms, in order to prevent policy-driven organizations from using checkoff dollars to fund overhead for political activity.
• The beef checkoff must be completely refundable.
• A referendum on the continuation of the beef checkoff must occur every five years.
“It is our recommendation that USDA consider rewriting the beef check off program under the 1996 generic research and promotion act.”
John Hansen, Nebraska Farmers Union President said the mission of the task force from the beginning was to develop the broad-based beef industry consensus necessary to approach Congress with a united front. The group hoped to develop a set of reforms to the beef checkoff that would be coupled with an increase of at least a dollar, he said. “It was entirely appropriate for NFU to participate in that process, which we did in good faith. After three long fruitless years, it became very clear that the non-profit advocacy organization –NCBA – that gets over 80 percent of its total budget dollars from the beef checkoff and is the vast majority vendor the beef checkoff was not willing to accept any meaningful structural reforms in the operation of the checkoff.” The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Hansen said, maintains a hardline position in contrast to a growing number of beef producers who are dissatisfied with the operation and structure of the beef checkoff, especially with NCBA’s “captive control” over the program. “I wholeheartedly support the NFU legislative resolution sent to the NFU Board of Directors and its provisions. It is consistent with both the NFU and Nebraska Farmers Union policies on checkoffs in general,” Hansen said.
In addition to his position as state president, Hansen is also the NFU Treasurer, serves on the NFU Legislative Committee and sits on the NFU Board of Directors.