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(Published in Valentine Midland News, Grand Island Independent, et al)

April 24, 2005

Dear Editor:

Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska (ICON) is not opposed to a checkoff on beef, but is opposed to the passage of LB 150. ICON has four areas of concern:

-Who is required to pay for the checkoff?
-Why does the bill contain such a complicated refund procedure?
-Who benefits from this structure?
-Who receives the funds and decides how the money is spent?
-Why is a checkoff fee only levied on the sale of live cattle? Shouldn't every entity profiting from the sale of beef (the final product) participate in promoting the product? The rancher now receives less than 50% of the total beef dollar. Isn't it time that those making more than 50% pay their fair share?

LB 150 contains refund language, but mandatory fees are still collected. The producer is then required to file forms quickly if he wants his checkoff money returned. Our concern is that the onus of supporting the checkoff will ultimately fall on the producer who can least afford it because the larger producers will have a greater incentive to ask for and receive a refund.

The bill specifies that the Director of the Department of Agriculture decides how the funds are spent. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) has been in charge of the existing checkoff since it's inception. Our current Ag Director has a very close relationship with NCBA. NCBA's efforts to open the Canadian border to live cattle is in opposition to 1989 protocols on BSE developed by the World Health Organization and NCBA's opposition to mandatory Country of Origin Labeling demonstrates to ICON that NCBA no longer represents the grass roots cattleman. Therefore, we will not support a bill which could continue funneling our own money to an organization which, we perceive, is destroying the independent cattle producer.

We're not talking about a small amount of money here. In fiscal year 2004, Nebraska collected nearly 10 million dollars in checkoff fees. Just over six million of that was ultimately sent to NCBA's checkoff division. Only $1,231,474 remained in Nebraska. That's our "tax" money going outstate to support jobs in other communities. Is this what Nebraska's cattle producers want?

Again, ICON does not oppose a checkoff. We believe that good has come from the promotion of beef. But let the producer decide at the point of sale whether he wants to help promote his product or not. It's a simpler and more honest approach to checkoff collection and one which deserves the support of every Nebraska cattleman.

We want a checkoff where every entity pays its fair share, a checkoff which is independent of political interests and solely dedicated to the promotion of beef, and a checkoff which will promote Nebraska beef as the best and safest beef in the world.

David Wright,
Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska, Board of Directors