OK Cattlemen's Association's Michael Kelsey Confronts Out-of-State Challengers to Checkoff InitiativeFri, 20 Oct 2017 14:36:03 CDT
During the month of October, cattle producers in Oklahoma have had the opportunity to participate in a mail-in ballot initiative, to vote on whether or not to approve a secondary Beef Checkoff program in the state. Producers will also have the chance to vote in person at their local county extension office on November 1st. With the mail-in ballot period concluding, Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays reached out to Michael Kelsey, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association, to ask about some of the challenges that have arisen during this process. OCA has primarily championed the YES vote effort, but as of recently, some in opposition of the referendum have made their presence known. Click or tap the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page to hear their entire conversation.
"OCA, our membership, is very supportive of the concept of the Checkoff," Kelsey said, explaining that producers in the state understand the importance of promoting and educating consumers about the product they raise, which is the sole purpose behind the Checkoff program. "It's vital we do that. That's why as a membership organization, we're very supportive of this process."
However, as of late, some groups beyond state borders have appeared on the scene, challenging the legality of the entire ballot process and the petition from which it originated. The challengers protest that certain individuals should not be allowed to vote in the referendum, nor from the beginning in the collection of signatures during the petition process that came prior. Particularly, these groups are singling out 4-H and FFA members, despite the fact that they all own and sell cattle.
"State law is very clear," Kelsey argues. "If you will pay the Checkoff, you're eligible to participate in the program. Every Checkoff has been that way. Why they've chosen Oklahoma to finally make a challenge- I can only guess."
In addition, these groups have also attempted to lower people's confidence in the Oklahoma Beef Council, which will manage the funds if the vote prevails, by raising concerns about the potential embezzlement of funds - which the OBC was recently victim to. However, Kelsey steadfastly defends the OBC and the process that it has undertaken to rectify the unfortunate event. He contends that the embezzlement was perpetrated by a "thief" and that the systems put in place eventually rooted out the truth. He commended the OBC's actions to immediately terminate and prosecute the individual responsible and applauded the safeguards implemented since the event occurred to ensure it never happens again.
Kelsey points out that all the organizations that have come up in opposition against the Checkoff, reside out of state.
In state, however, the Checkoff has earned the endorsement of several ag-based organizations, including American Farmers & Ranchers, Oklahoma Farm Bureau, the Oklahoma Dairy Producers Association - even many junior livestock associations and breed associations, too, have offered their support.
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