FRANKFORT, Ky. — The national beef checkoff program has been seen as a driving force in marketing and research efforts to make the industry stronger across the country. Now Kentucky producers will contribute to a state checkoff after voting for a $1 per head assessment last month.
The Kentucky State Board of Agriculture called for the referendum in August after a request came from the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Assoc. (KCA). Dave Maples, executive vice president of the KCA, said the assessment will be used to promote and stimulate the beef industry by research, market development and education.
"This is a uniquely Kentucky checkoff and it is in addition to the federal checkoff," he said.
Money collected from the federal program is split, with half going to national research and promotion and the rest sent to individual states. Proponents of the move say that $1 collected now just doesn’t go as far as it did when the program first began in 1985. Similar moves have been made by other states this year including Texas, Ohio and Georgia. Tennessee and Alabama also have state programs, as do some states in the West.
Dave Edmiston, a producer and chair of the Beef Promotion Research Council of Texas, is confident in that state’s beef checkoff program and proud of his fellow cattlemen and -women for standing up for the industry and recognizing the importance and need for this program.
"As beef and dairy farmers and ranchers, every dollar we invest into the program goes to help increase profit opportunities by keeping beef top-of-mind with consumers and by working to ensure a wholesome, quality beef-eating experience every time," he said. "We are working to continue to grow beef demand by investing in program areas such as retail and foodservice, international export marketing and digital consumer marketing."
Producers in Texas voted the assessment in with a 66 percent majority. The vote in Kentucky was much closer; it passed by a vote of 1,816-1,423. Maples would have liked to have seen a bigger margin, after many weeks of work to inform producers of the benefit of a state program. "Kentucky had a state checkoff program in the (19)70’s for 10 years prior to the national program," he said.
He thinks the trend is going back to those days when state-only programs existed, but the issue has been one of much debate across the country. "The thing about the state program is it is totally dictated by what the producers in Kentucky want to do," he explained.
There are five funding areas in which the state dollars can be spent, according to state regulations. Those include promotion, market development, education, research and global marketing. "The vision is to have a committee of Kentucky producers, which would operate like we do with the beef checkoff we have today, and they will define what and how the money is spent under the title of promotion," said Maples. "They’ll be in charge of writing the marketing plan and writing a budget."
According to information from the KCA, the oversight board would include beef and dairy producers along with industry professionals.
The process has not been an overnight accomplishment. Maples said it has really taken about three years, having to first go through adjustments to existing legislation, the state Board of Agriculture and KCA, not to mention talking to the many cattle producers across Kentucky.
"As I went out, there were many people in favor of it, but there were also people that weren’t," he said.
The fact remains that other commodity groups are using their own checkoff dollars to promote their products in a competitive marketplace. Maples said in his mind, "you can’t sit still or you’ll get left out."
Collection of the assessment will go into effect on April 1, 2015, and producers do have the option of requesting a refund from KCA within 30 days of the date when the assessment is collected. For more information, visit the KCA website at www.kycattle.org