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Independent Cattlemen Support Chambers’ Amendment to Beef Bill

Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska (ICON) expressed solidarity with Omaha Senator Ernie Chambers on Wednesday, for his proposed amendment to LB 150. The bill would establish a state beef checkoff to be enacted if the current mandatory checkoff is ruled unconstitutional in a pending federal court case.

Chambers offered an amendment to LB 150 which eliminates the mandatory requirement that checkoff monies be collected from every producer. As written, LB 150 offers the producer the right to a refund, but requires the producer to write a timely request for refund each time he sells cattle. After approval, a refund is issued at a later date. Chambers’ simplification of the bill permits the producer to “opt out” of the checkoff at the point of sale, which eliminates paperwork and does not tie up the producer’s money for an indefinite period of time.

ICON found a vocal ally in Chambers. “We’re not just talking about pressure brought on the producers,” Chambers told the Lincoln Journal-Star, “we’re talking about coercion.” He equated the LB 150's checkoff refund process with being told at the grocery store that you could apply by mail to receive your change.

ICON board member, Al Davis, said that it is not at all surprising to have “east meet west” in this debate where urban Senator Chambers backs the interests of the cattle producers.

“Chambers has an excellent reputation for standing up for fairness and he has a keen sense of justice. Those tenets aren’t tied to geography.” He added, “If the US Supreme Court deems that a mandatory checkoff is unconstitutional, why should there be any hoops to jump through on the state level for those who don’t want to participate? The program will succeed if the producers want it. It’s that simple.”

Some senators claim that amending the bill to make the checkoff voluntary would limit funding because small producers would decline payment of the fees. “With the current structure, however, we believe that it will be the large producers who "opt out" of the checkoff, leaving the small producer to shoulder most of the costs.” Davis said.

Davis explained, “At a dollar a head, a producer selling 25 head might not find it worthwhile to file the paperwork to retrieve his $25 refund. On the other hand, a feedlot which feeds and sells over 20,000 head per year will have more incentive to file the paperwork to get their $20,000 refund.”

One of the largest revenue generators for the national checkoff collections currently comes from imported cattle---nearly nine million dollars. Nebraska will not be able to ask for fees from imported cattle because there is no point of sale. “We don't think subsidizing the imported cattle will sit very well with any Nebraska beef producer,” Davis said.

LB 150 is currently in the second round of legislative approval.
The Mission of the Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska (ICON) is to protect and promote the interests of Nebraska's independent cattle producers. Office of the Organization is located in Hyannis, Nebraska and membership can be obtained by calling (308) 282-2826