Contact: Iowa Cattlemen's Association, 515-296-2266, Contact Us.
Earlier this year, the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act (S. 557/H.R. 1249) was introduced in Congress. Championed by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), this legislation would substantially undermine the ability of federal checkoff programs, collected and partially administered by the Iowa Beef Industry Council, to drive demand for beef.
Supporters of the OFF Act assert this bill would increase transparency and eliminate loopholes in the statutes that enable commodity checkoff programs. A disgruntled few have claimed these checkoff dollars are being deceptively used against producers, yet the bill doesn’t actually create any new checks or balances. It’s merely an attack driven by the pursuit of a vendetta within our beef cattle industry and activists who do not want beef production or consumption to grow.
BY PRODUCERS, FOR PRODUCERS
At the federal level, the Beef Checkoff was created to build beef demand, fund education, research, marketing, and advertising campaigns, and develop new beef products. In 1988, the Checkoff assessment became mandatory when approved by a national referendum vote by producers. The board that oversees the Checkoff is comprised of producers appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. These members make sure your Checkoff dollars are judiciously spent to bring the most return on investment back to all producers.
The Checkoff is funded through a $1 per head assessment on the sale of live cattle. That dollar is collected by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB), which oversees the program.
Making amendments to the Beef Promotion and Research Act requires congressional action and a producer referendum. In 2021, a petition to end the Checkoff failed to meet the requirement for signatures.
Under existing law, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is required to provide oversight of the Checkoff program and its stakeholders.
All expenditures and program costs of the Checkoff are publicly available at beefboard.org and an independent auditing firm conducts yearly audits of the financial statements for CBB and all CBB-approved projects.
USDA Agricultural Marketing Service reviews these audits and conducts its own reviews of CBB operations at least once every three years and requires a separate independent evaluation of the effectiveness of CBB’s promotional programs every five years.
CAN SOMEONE BUY A VOWEL?
Did you know there are restrictions that keep the Checkoff from using “unfair or deceptive acts or practices including unfair or deceptive acts or practices with respect to the quality, value or use of any competing product”?
For example, Checkoff staff must share USDA-approved messaging when promoting beef. When discussing fake meat, you’ll note that the Checkoff’s approach is different from ICA’s approach. We’re not going to be deceptive in anything that we do, but we aren’t concerned with what’s considered “fair.” Words like “beef substitutes” and “meat alternatives” are often used by the Checkoff, instead of, “Protein bioengineered in a Petri dish, which doesn’t share the same sentiment as beef raised under the stewardship of cattle producers,” or calling a super impossible burger a “sh _ t sandwich.”
KNOW WHAT’S IN THE “ALPHABET SOUP”
It’s worth noting that no bill, even the OFF Act, is solely ink on paper. Intent matters—and the intent of the groups driving this legislation is not to support your way of life in any way, shape, or form.
There are several acronyms in the list (https://bit.ly/3BkUuQF) of those who support the OFF Act. I’ll sort through some of the “alphabet soup” so you can understand who truly wants to change our Checkoff and text pulled directly from these organizations’ websites that emphasize true intentions. It doesn’t take long to realize that this isn’t about transparency or fairness in farming, it’s about controlling the organizations that promote beef production and consumption.
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) - “Did you know that May is “National Burger Month”? We think it’s the perfect excuse to try something new—and more humane than a conventional, industrially produced beef patty.”
Farm Sanctuary - “We pursue bold solutions to end animal agriculture and foster just and compassionate vegan living.”
R-CALF USA - “It is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry.”
Mercy for Animals - “Making animal products less competitive and less attractive to consumers, food producers, and policymakers.”
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future - “Reducing your intake of meat and animal products, particularly from industrial sources, can help protect your health, the health of the public, and the environment.”
LEARN WHERE YOUR DOLLAR GOES
You won’t get “transparency and accountability” from animal activist groups and the farm/ranch organizations that have teamed up with them, and you certainly won’t get it from a vegan senator that has repeatedly introduced bills to place moratoriums on concentrated animal feeding operations and eliminate dedicated conservation cost-share funding for livestock producers.
As producers, we must recognize the role of the Checkoff and how it complements the work we do on our farms and ranches. The Checkoff supports research tracking consumer preferences, views, and demand for meat; increasing market access for beef worldwide and developing demand overseas; promotion, like the Beef. It’s what’s for dinner. campaign; and more—all things we cannot do from our own farms and ranches.
If you have any doubts about where your Checkoff dollars are going or want to know more about how the Checkoff works for you, speak with Iowa Beef Industry Council staff or one of the many producers on the Iowa Beef Industry Council Board of Directors. Their information can be found online at iabeef.org/about-us.
HELP US PROTECT THE CHECKOFF FROM ACTIVISTS
You’ll need to make three quick calls or send three emails—your pick. Contact your congressional representative and Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst. Urge them to protect producer-directed commodity checkoff programs, like the Beef Checkoff, by taking a stand against anti-animal agriculture activists and opposing the OFF Act. Remind them that Checkoff dollars cannot be used to influence public policy and that USDA requires audits of checkoff programs and contractors to ensure compliance.
About the Iowa Cattlemen's Association: The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association represents nearly 8,000 beef-producing families and associated companies dedicated to the future of Iowa’s beef industry. ICA’s mission is “Grow Iowa’s beef business through advocacy, leadership and education.” www.iacattlemen.org.