Cattle Producers Talking Pros and Cons of State Beef Checkoff

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Right now the national beef checkoff gets one dollar for every beef animal sold in Nebraska.

Part of that money stays in the state and gets used by the Nebraska Beef Council for beef promotion, education, and research. But members of the Nebraska Cattlemen are talking with other producers about the pros and cons of also having a state beef checkoff.

Nebraska Cattlemen Marketing Committee Chair Dave Hamilton says they're proposing a $1 state-based checkoff because high inflation and low inventory means fewer funds.

"With the drought and aging beef producers and more profitable uses for land, primarily corn production, cow numbers continue to go down and so checkoff revenues are going down," says Hamilton.

Hamilton says they believe extra checkoff dollars can help better market Nebraska beef to the what the Nebraska Beef Council says is a changing consumer.

"It's very important for us to reach consumers and help them understand the nutritional benefits of beef and the health benefits of beef," says Nebraska Beef Council Executive Director Ann Marie Bosshamer. "When we do market research we find out that that's kind of the number one reason people have concerns about eating beef."

Checkoff dollars are often collected at brand inspected sales, but not all of Nebraska is a brand inspected area.

That's why some groups like the Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska (ICON) think a state-based checkoff won't work. ICON member Joe Pongratz says it's already impossible to hold all producers accountable for paying checkoff dollars.

"It's on an honor system if you make a private treaty sale you should mail that in whereas on the west side of that line we have brand inspectors come out who prove the ownership at the time of the sale and the brand inspector then collects the beef checkoff while he's there," says Pongratz.

The Nebraska Cattlemen say they'll have nine meeting in total, and if they think producers are in favor of a state checkoff plan to have a referendum where all producers will vote. If that vote approves a checkoff, they plan to pursue legislation during the 2014 legislative session.