National Farmers Union Quits Beef Checkoff Talks- Oklahoma Votes No to PulloutTue, 09 Sep 2014 05:50:40 CDT
The National Farmers Union withdrew from three years of discussions for reform of the beef checkoff as the general farm group called the exercise "a waste of time and resources." Over the weekend, the NFU board said it was up to the Agriculture Department to respond to beef producer demands for reform. "It is our recommendation that USDA consider rewriting the beef checkoff program under the 1996 generic research and promotion act," said a resolution adopted by the board. The board action was not unanimous as the largest Farmers Union state (by membership), Oklahoma, voted not to pull out of the talks. The President of the American Farmers and Ranchers, Terry Detrick, says it makes no sense to get mad and take your toys and go home, losing your chance to influence any plan developed by the industry in the days ahead.
AFR, the Farmers Union affiliate in Oklahoma, represents about forty percent of the NFU membership nationally. Farm Director Ron Hays talked with Detrick on Monday evening from Washington- and he offered his reasons why Oklahoma voted no and also talked about the possibility that USDA and Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack might jump into the arguments over the operation of the Beef Checkoff and make changes without the direction of Congress. You can hear an overview of Detrick's comments with Hays by clicking on the LISTEN BAR below.
NFU president Roger Johnson said the discussions among an informal working group of 11 ag organizations showed "there is no willingness from key players to allow real reforms to take place." The working group, spanning cattle, dairy and import trade groups and the two largest U.S farm groups, was created in hopes of consensus on a proposal to double the checkoff of $1 per head and complaints the National Cattlemen's Beef Association unfairly gets the lion's share of checkoff revenue. The checkoff generated $39.5 million in 2013.
The NFU says the reforms must include giving the checkoff board the power to run projects on its own and there must be a referendum every five years on whether to keep the checkoff in operations.
Vilsack did speak to the NFU Fly In on Monday- and told the organization that he was disasppointed that the discussions seem to be going no where and that he might consider proposing changes to the Beef Checkoff himself.
There is no indication that the other ten ag organizations are going to stop their work, despite the withdrawal of the NFU from the process.
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