Oklahoma has proposed an additional $1.00 per head fee for the purpose of promoting beef. Currently, a national $1.00 per head fee is in place, with half going to a national program, the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board and half funding the Oklahoma Beef Council.
Heavy hitters have come out in favor of the beef checkoff: Oklahoma Cattlemens Association (OCA), American Farmers and Ranchers (AFR) and Oklahoma Farm Bureau to name a few.
But, does the Beef Council need 3 times the operating money it has now? What specifically would the money be used for?
In red below, FAQ from oklahomabeefcheckoff.com in favor of the check off. In blue, info from http://competitivemarkets.com/nocheckoffincrease/ opposed to the check off.
What is the Oklahoma Beef Checkoff?
The Oklahoma Beef Checkoff is a producer funded and managed, state-level promotion, marketing, research and education program for beef and beef products.
Why is the Checkoff Needed?
The additional Oklahoma Beef Checkoff dollar would be a state, producer driven checkoff that would allow Oklahomans the ability to control what to do with that dollar. It would give Oklahoma producers a greater ability to market, promote and defend beef here at home and around the globe – something producers can’t do on an individual basis.
Who will manage the money collected through the Oklahoma Beef Checkoff?
The Oklahoma Beef Council will serve as the management entity of the state-level checkoff program. The Board is comprised of Oklahoma representatives who are appointed by the following: American Farmers and Ranchers, Oklahoma Dairy Producers Association, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, Oklahoma CattleWomen Association, Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Oklahoma Livestock Marketing Association and the Chairman of the Oklahoma Senate and House Agriculture Committees.
Are there safeguard measures to keep it from being misused?
The Oklahoma Beef Council has implemented greater controls and processes to safeguard and protect the finances of the council. The Council employs an independent third-party accounting firm that has a five-step review process; as well as an audit/risk committee which includes an independent, outside financial advisor to the committee that monitors and reviews the internal controls and potential risks to the council.
What will the money be used for?
The use of funds is limited by the parameters established in state law, which are beef promotion, marketing, research and education for beef and beef products. The money can be used in Oklahoma, the U.S. and/or internationally. The law does not allow checkoff funds to be used for lobbying activities to influence public policy or government affairs.
What is meant by the assessment being “a maximum of $1?”
According to the Oklahoma Commodity Research Enhancement Act, producers set the maximum allowable rate for the assessment through the referendum vote. The actual assessment rate is set, not to exceed the maximum, by the Oklahoma Beef Council. If circumstances ever warranted an assessment less than the maximum, the Council has the authority to set that rate without another referendum. It will be an assessment of $1.
Who will decide if Oklahoma Beef Checkoff program is started?
Eligible beef producers who would be required to pay the assessment, will vote in a referendum to determine if a state-level checkoff program is started.
STOP THE OKLAHOMA BEEF CHECKOFF INCREASE
The Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association is holding a referendum to double the beef checkoff tax assessed on cattle producers. Voting began October 2, 2017 and will conclude on November 1, 2017.
A $1.00 tax is imposed every time cattle are sold. This is the “Beef Checkoff” imposed by federal law, and Oklahoma ranchers pay about $3 million per year. Half goes to the Oklahoma Beef Council (OBC), and half goes to the national Cattlemen’s Beef Board. The Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association (OCA), with approval of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, is holding an election to add another $1 tax each time cattle are sold.
- Last year, it was discovered that $2.6 million in Oklahoma checkoff fees were embezzled by the Oklahoma Beef Council (OBC) bookkeeper from 2009 to 2016. Doubling the beef checkoff tax on cattle producers would raise an additional $3 million for the OBC, which has not released any audits or detailed expenditures on how the current checkoff funds are being expended.
- OCA and the other proponents of this new checkoff highlight that the existing checkoff funds result in a $11.20 return on investment to the industry, but since 2014 cattle producers have seen a 43% drop in cattle prices and a 22% drop in the farm share of the retail beef dollar. The “industry” may be making money off the checkoff, but Oklahoma cattle producers are getting less today.
- OCA launched a petition drive in 2015, and it took the organization nearly two years to collect their stated requirement of 5,100 signatures to bring the issue to a statewide vote. OCA cleared their stated signature requirement by only 77 signatures. The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry certified signatures from out of state interests and children who are not old enough to even sign their own names.
- There is no requirement that the beef checkoff funds be used to market only Oklahoma beef; current checkoff funds are used to market foreign beef for Brazil’s JBS as well as other foreign importers.
- The referendum on Oklahoma cattle producers allows children, corporations, and out-of-state interests to vote. If OCA is successful, all Oklahoma cattle producers will be required to pay the increase.
- While the backers of the measure state that a cattle producer may ask for a refund, no specific details on how a refund may be requested have been provided.
For these and many other reasons Oklahoma cattle producers should just say no; now is not the time to double the tax on the backs of Oklahoma cattle producers. We should not consider an increase of the checkoff assessment to $2 until the abuses within the Oklahoma Beef Council are fully resolved. Producers must vote and must vote “No” to stop this checkoff increase. Only the votes of those voting will be counted, meaning if a producer does not vote, he/she will be helping the proposed increase to pass.
The vote is to be held on November 1, 2017 at any Oklahoma county extension office during normal business hours. Mail-in ballots are available from October 2-20, 2017 by calling 405-235-4391 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and must be postmarked by October 27, 2017.