BEDFORD, Pa. — Amidst the turmoil of 2020, there have been interest groups who disagree with the Beef Checkoff. In late November, one of those interest groups brought its message to us here in the Commonwealth, and therefore the Pennsylvania Beef Council (PBC) wants to take the opportunity to share the goals and mission of the PBC and to ensure our producers know the facts. This is key as the Beef Checkoff works on behalf of beef, dairy and veal producers in our state.
A Little History
For a variety of reasons, consumer beef demand plummeted in the U.S. in the 1970s and ‘80s, prompting a group of cattle producers from across the country to look for a way to address the industry’s problems, and to highlight beef’s strengths as a protein of choice. That grassroots group sought feedback from producers in building the program, and what they heard was the desire for a strong state beef council-driven involvement bolstered by the efficiencies of widespread national support. Their efforts led to the Beef Checkoff, which was part of the 1985 Farm Bill. When the referendum was put to the vote, it passed with an impressive 79% of producer support.
Producers wanted a program they could be a part of at both the state and national levels, and that’s exactly what they got—a program that focuses wholly on beef promotion, research, and education. The state/national partnership is one of the program’s key strengths, and what makes the Beef Checkoff valuable to Pennsylvania producers. The partnership allows promotion to be cohesive. In addition, there is oversight to ensure both dollars spent and programs shared fit the guidelines of the Act and Order. All program materials are reviewed and approved by USDA before sharing to ensure all checkoff programming meets the guidelines of the Act and the Order and ultimately represent all beef equally. Lastly, the partnership provides the opportunity for producers of all sizes and from all regions to be heard.
Of the dollar-a-head assessment, half of every dollar stays right here to fund the PBC’s own beef-related programs in the area of Producer Education, Consumer and Youth Outreach, Retail and Foodservice Partnerships and Health Professional Outreach. The PBC prides itself on a producer guided council that seeks to keep beef top of mind and center of consumers’ plates.
The Checkoff utilizes the other half of that dollar to create and provide user ready national messaging that can even be customized for Pennsylvania itself. Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner is essentially a library full of all things beef and a great resource for key contacts, too. A great example of a recent state/national partnership was this summer’s popular “United We Steak” campaign. Pennsylvania took that national program and paired local producers to that message to gear consumers up for summer grilling season. We know beef is a beloved favorite to place on the grill and therefore the effort met many consumers and producers alike via radio as a friendly reminder. The traditional radio campaign worked to help close the gap from farm to fork by connecting consumers with the voice and hands that raised the beef they enjoy with their families.
Another way the state/national partnership works is through the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB). As stewards of the Checkoff, the CBB is comprised of 101 U.S. beef, dairy, and veal producers as well as importers of beef and beef products, who also pay the checkoff. Pennsylvania has two seats on that board, which include one beef and one dairy producer, ensuring our voice and perspective are reflected in national programming.
The Pennsylvania Beef Council is distinctly unique. We have a large, 21-member board and 8 ex-officio seats that represents beef, dairy, and veal producers, livestock marketing, retail, foodservice, and higher education, and the board’s cohorts include all ages, from Millennials to the Greatest Generation.
Board members are active in the planning of programming and budgeting on an annual basis and are apprised of quarterly staff updates and weekly communication of industry updates and council announcements. The council is proud that we are a producer-governed organization and everything the council does ties back to education and promotion of beef, ultimately increasing demand for beef within our state and region.
We are also part of unique collaborations with neighboring states, as the PBC houses the Northeast Beef Promotion Initiative (NEBPI), a subcontractor to the Beef Checkoff. The NEBPI program shares national campaigns and research within the Northeast region, Maine to Virginia, where people outnumber cattle 14-to-1. The region is home to 72 million consumers, nearly a quarter of the country’s population, yet only 3% of Beef Checkoff dollars are collected within the region. There are also five states (Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut) without a state beef council and therefore no grassroots voice. The NEBPI program, with funding from the Beef Checkoff, extends nationally-developed beef messaging and content to the region, in partnership with existing state beef councils. The NEBPI program is a great benefit to Pennsylvania’s beef producers, as it allows for collaboration on programs and beef promotion efforts.
Over the past 35 years, the Beef Checkoff programs have evolved dynamically based on producer input and decision-making. The current petitioners are requesting a referendum on the termination of the program. The interest group has stated that the end goal is to eliminate the program entirely. It’s important to know that the current petition does nothing to amend or change the Checkoff—a “yay” vote keeps it; a “nay” vote ends it.
Ending the Beef Checkoff will end the mandatory funding and programming our state beef council does on behalf of our producers at the grassroots level. PBC efforts to advocate for beef at the state level would diminish. The Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program in PA is a cornerstone of the PBC organization certifying to date nearly 7,000 producers in our state. Currently, PBC plays a key part in sharing both producer education and consumer messaging at a whole host of ag-related events such as PA Farm Show, Ag Progress Days, 4-H and FFA support, proving materials for County Fairs, Dairy Summit, Farm to Table Events and more.
The Checkoff operates within the law under which it was created to provide promotion, research, and education about beef. The Checkoff is not allowed to lobby or get involved with policy issues. As a board member, we are involved daily with its function, financials, programming, and success. Here at the Pennsylvania Beef Council, we’re always available to answer your questions and listen to your thoughts. The staff is very proud to work on behalf of each producer in this state. We want you to feel a part of the solution, so get involved as we continue to reach people of all ages sharing the positive attributes of beef’s.
–Adam Kauf, Pennsylvania Beef Council Chairman