Beef Board Chair Kim Brackett Talks Checkoff and Consumers with Ron HaysSun, 08 Jun 2014 07:36:08 CDT
Arguably, the Beef Checkoff may be the most complicated and most scruntinized commodity checkoff in the United States. Established in the late 1980s by a producer referendum, the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion Board is a group of cattle industry leaders who have been nominated by their peers but selected by the US Secretary of Agriculture. The "Beef Board" does not directly do the work that is associated with the checkoff, but rather contracts with existing cattle industry groups to do the actual research, education and promotion to improve demand for US Beef.
Kim Brackett is the current Chairman of the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion Board and is a multi state cattle producer from Idaho and California. Brackett talked recently with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network's Ron Hays about the checkoff itself, as well as the programs that she is most excited about in 2014. As they talked, this articulate cattle lady blew up some of the myths prepetuated about the checkoff and how it works to the advantage of some groups over others.
At the heart of the criticism leveled against the checkoff is the claim that those who receive checkoff money to do a project on behalf of the Beef Board are reaping huge monetary benefits from the association. Brackett says that is not the case and never has been the case. All Beef Checkoff related projects are based on the concept of the organization doing the work only getting reimbursed for that project- and for nothing more. The "Cost Recovery" concept is rigorously applied to every contract let by the Beef Board, to the point where many groups that are eligible to do work for the Beef Checkoff choose not to, because the bar is set so high to account for every dollar and how it is used. In recent years, the scrutiny has actually been elevated, to make sure each beef checkoff is used to execute the project it has been assigned to.
The Beef Checkoff is also a complicated program, in that it is collected by state organizations, and half of the money is then forwarded to the national Beef Board. Many of the state retained beef checkoff dollars end up being used for national programs, as the state groups pool their money with other states and decide how to spend those pooled monies through a group called the Federation of State Beef Councils. The Federation is housed under the umbrella of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, and groups not named NCBA often point to the Federation as being in the back pocket of the policy arm of the NCBA.
Brackett says that's not true, as the beef checkoff dollars spent through the Federation face the same scrutiny that the national dollars do.
As for 2014, Brackett says that the Beef Board continues to work on getting the most from every dollar, as the Beef Checkoff is a fixed amount that is assessed from the producer- one dollar- and that has not changed since the start of the program in the 1980s. "Last year, we used checkoff dollars to fund what we called a Beef Demand Determinant Study. And that focused on what consumers are really thinking about as they stand before the meat case, what's really influencing their purchasing decisions. That study gave us seven items that consumers are really focusing on." She adds that the priorities that came out of this study are used as measuring sticks for all new proposals coming from contractors for work that can be done with beef checkoff money. "If they meet the priorities that came out of this beef demand determinant study, then it's a higher priority for us to fund it in the Operating Committee.
According to that 2013 report, "Seven broad beef product attributes were identified as potentially salient demand factors that the beef industry may be able to influence and were the central focus of this study: 1) Beef Price, 2) Food Safety, 3) Product Quality, 4) Health, 5) Nutrition, 6) Social Aspects, and 7) Sustainability." Click here for more details about that study, which is now helping to shape which projects receive checkoff funding.
Kim Brackett is our guest in this special electronic edition of the Beef Buzz.
The Beef Buzz is a regular feature heard on radio stations around the region on the Radio Oklahoma Network- but is also a regular audio feature found on this website as well. Click on the LISTEN BAR below for today's show- and check out our archives for older Beef Buzz shows covering the gamut of the beef cattle industry today.
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