(Published in Valentine Midland News, Grand Island Independent, et
April 24, 2005
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
-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to ICON that NCBA no longer represents the grass roots cattleman.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
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.
Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska, Board of Directors