A Buck a Head book planned for 2021 release | TheFencePost.com
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A Buck a Head book planned for 2021 release

Leesa Zalesky, a writer from Wahoo, Neb., said the importance of commodity checkoff programs have long been overlooked by authors, a gap that she and Diane Gumaer thought ought to be filled considering the checkoff’s role in influencing consumer consciousness.

The pair’s forthcoming book, “A Buck a Head: How a Lust For Power Polarized America’s Cattle Industry,” is a comprehensive history of the Beef Checkoff.

Zalesky, whose background is in journalism, has had a book about the checkoff in mind for a number of years.

“Commodity checkoff programs have largely escaped the scrutiny of historians over the years,” she said. “There aren’t many books about individual commodity checkoffs, you can find a lot of white papers, a lot of research out there, but it’s pretty hard to come by one thing that encapsulates the entire history of one particular commodity checkoff.”

Zalesky said in addition to the influence on consumers of the checkoff programs, they color the agricultural landscape, both economically and politically. Just like the cattle industry, she said, the checkoff has a long and storied past dating back to the 1920s when it was voluntary until it was mandated by Congress in 1985. Gathering the history within the covers of a book is a shared passion of both Zalesky and Gumaer, who are longtime friends.

Gumaer worked for the Cattleman’s Beef Board for 15 years, giving her a familiarity with the program. Zalesky said research was conducted and interviews with people whose experiences with the checkoff both when it was voluntary and after, add to the history.

A promotional post on social media said the authors’ conclusion is “that the only way to ‘fix’ today’s beef checkoff is to scrap it and start anew.”

“Facts speak for themselves,” she said. ‘Readers can draw their own conclusions.”

She said she anticipates going to press in late October with a potential January release date. ❖

— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at rgabel@thefencepost.com or (970) 768-0024.


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