You don’t have to look too hard to find history’s repeating patterns and, as in the past, the call for change is in the air. Even within the beef industry, there’s a movement urging producers to throw off traditional institutions, like the Beef Checkoff, simply because it’s “too old” or they weren’t alive when it was established. It’s easy to get swept up by the itch for something different, change for change’s sake. But, it’s important to do your homework, because there are many reasons producers of all ages still value the Beef Checkoff.
Approved by an overwhelming 79 percent of producers during the referendum vote when it was implemented, Checkoff support remains high. According to Luce Research’s 2020 Producer Attitude Survey, 77 percent of the 1,200 beef and dairy producers surveyed nationwide say the Checkoff contributes positively to consumer demand for beef; 73 percent approve of the Checkoff overall.
Of the Checkoff’s dollar-per-head assessment, up to half is retained by Qualified State Beef Councils for beef-related programs in their own states. The other 50-cents is used nationally for marketing, consumer advertising, education, product development, and research designed to increase demand for beef, both domestically and through Checkoff programs abroad. This local/national partnership is a unique and key aspect of the program.
Interestingly, the dollar assessment hasn’t increased a penny over the decades—amazing when you consider that the 1985 dollar only has about 41-cents of purchasing power in 2020 (Consumer Price Index, Bureau of Labor Statistics). Despite this inflation loss, and the fact that the industry produces more beef from fewer cattle, the Checkoff delivers real value through a strategic blend of tradition, experience, and innovation.
Over three and a half decades, the Beef Checkoff has developed extensive knowledge from relationships with industry experts who know what works and provide guidance. From this foundation, the Checkoff embraces new ideas and methods, always finding ways to be the most effective. Checkoff contractors pivot nimbly amid global challenges like COVID-19; researchers propel the industry on issues like sustainability; and adoption of time- and money-saving technologies give producers an efficient and productive bang for their buck.
Change in life is a certainty. Nothing stays static, not even the 35-year-old Beef Checkoff. The programs and strategies of today are already much different than when it began. As we continue to grow demand for our product in an extremely competitive world, we want your thoughts and ideas. Get involved! Together, we can keep the Checkoff evolving to make beef the protein of choice for consumers domestically and around the world, a benefit to all producers.
The Beef Checkoff program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States may retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.