Oklahoma Beef Checkoff Referendum Defeated with 55 Percent of Ballots Counted Saying NayThu, 09 Nov 2017 13:35:54 CST
The Oklahoma Beef Checkoff Referendum has apparently failed, based on the raw numbers provided to Oklahoma State Commissioner of Agriculture Jim Reese. Reese, after receiving a half dozen boxes filled with ballots from the Third Party Auditor that collected the ballots and provided a vote count, announced that " after reviewing the ballots from both the early mail in voting and the in person voting, I find the vote to adopt the new Oklahoma Beef Checkoff to have failed by 1998 in favor and 2506 in opposition."
Reese added that he would review all ballots and provide a certified vote count in one week- by next Thursday, November 16th.
The only Ag Organization represented at the announcement by Secretary Reese was the American Farmers and Ranchers- their President, Terry Detrick, told Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays "we're very disappointed in that this has been a long time policy of AFR to support voluntary commodity checkoffs." AFR also issued a statement after the failed vote was revealed- saying "American Farmers & Ranchers is deeply disappointed with the results of the Oklahoma Beef Checkoff referendum. This negative outcome was influenced by the out-of-state anti-agriculture groups who waged a false and misleading campaign over the last few months. AFR remains steadfast in our support for the checkoff and Oklahoma beef producers."
Hays has produced an overview of the statement by Secretary Reese, AFR President Terry Detrick and other reaction by several groups- you can hear that overview by clicking on the LISTEN BAR below.
The group that led the effort to collect signatures and then was charged by the Oklahoma Department of Ag, the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association, released a statement that included a headline that stated "Out-of-State Activists Defeat the Oklahoma Beef Checkoff Referendum." The OCA statement quoted both President Weston Givens and OCA Executive Vice President Michael Kelsey:
“As a rancher, I face challenges every day,” said Weston Givens, rancher and President of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association. “Unfortunately, those daily challenges are nothing compared to the growing challenges that our industry faces such as: aggressive anti-meat activist groups trying to remove beef from the menu and misleading claims about food safety and animal care. It is disheartening that the Oklahoma Beef Checkoff was defeated, but I’m still proud of the strong collaborative effort of the Vote Yes Coalition and our grassroots campaign.”
“This is an unfortunate loss for the beef industry here in Oklahoma,” said Michael Kelsey, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President. “Investing in a state-level beef checkoff would have greatly increased the opportunities to market, promote and educate consumers about beef and beef producers. We ran a good campaign that worked hard to reach out and educate beef producers, but ultimately we were defeated today by the same out-of-state activists that defeated State Question 777 last fall.”
The Oklahoma Beef Council also issued a statement- if the Checkoff vote had been positive, the Beef Council would have become responsible for collecting the refundable assessment. The Beef Council stated "Although we’re disappointed in the outcome, it doesn’t dissuade our passion for our work. We’re proud to serve Oklahoma’s farming and ranching families with Beef Checkoff programs.
"Our job at the Oklahoma Beef Council (OBC) does not change - to strengthen beef demand through promotion, industry information, international marketing, consumer information, research and education. While voters declined to support a state beef checkoff now, we remain committed to carrying out our work effectively and responsibly."
Two out of state groups that rallied the opposition vote, R-Calf USA and the Organization for Competitive Markets, cheered the defeat, calling the proposed Checkoff a Tax on Producers. According to the joint release:
"Oklahoma farmers and ranchers won a great victory against the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association (OCA) and their corporate out of state interests. In an announcement today, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry (DAFF) announced in a vote of 1998 to 2506 the Oklahoma Beef Checkoff Referendum had been defeated.
"The Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) and R-CALF USA on behalf of their Oklahoma members had joined together to lead the opposition to the referendum calling out the OCA for attempting to double the tax paid on every head of cattle sold.
"Bill Bullard, CEO for R-CALF USA stated, "We were proud to stand with our Oklahoma members to ensure justice was carried out during this election." He concluded, "It is good to know that in America, if you stand up for what is right you can still win."
"In spite of the inherent conflict of interest, DAFF had granted the lead organization pushing for the passage of the Oklahoma Beef Checkoff increase, OCA, the exclusive right to administer the election process and vote.
"Oklahoma farmer and OCM board member Paul Muegge added, "With my years of experience fighting corporate agriculture, I knew we had to stand up to OCA. They are nothing more than the modern day cattle barons trying to ride rough shod over family farmers and ranchers and using our government to do so."
"Members of R-CALF USA and OCM had filed an application with the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Based on the court's procedural rules, the Plaintiffs will have to dismiss their case now that they have won the election.
"In that the referendum failed making the issues moot, Brian Ted Jones, attorney for the plaintiffs will be dismissing the case. He stated, "Unfortunately having to dismiss the case leaves serious constitutional questions about the statute and the process left unanswered."
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