Oklahoma Ag Groups Unite on Secondary State Beef Checkoff, Petition Drive Coming SoonWed, 02 Sep 2015 05:54:22 CDT
Before the implementation of the federal act and order that established the national dollar a head beef checkoff in the 1980s- Oklahoma had a checkoff run at the state level. Here in 2015, with little hope that the one dollar per head assessment will be increased nationally, more than a dozen states have considered the concept of adding to the national checkoff a secondary state administered checkoff and have adopted the concept. Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association Executive Vice President Michael Kelsey said OCA has been working with all of the organizations that sit on the Oklahoma Beef Council board- meeting regularly for several months in an effort to develop a plan that will work for Oklahoma. This includes the American Farmers and Ranchers, Oklahoma CattleWomen's Association, Oklahoma Dairy Producers Association, Oklahoma Farm Bureau and the Oklahoma Livestock Marketing Association.
"All of those organizations have been at the table during this task force opportunity, to kind of shape what we would want to do with a state checkoff," Kelsey said.
A draft petition has been circulated to members of the task force. The petition will likely be finalized at their next meeting on Friday, September 4th. Once the petition is finalized, Kelsey said they will start circulating the petition by mid-September to the state's beef producers. At that time, producers will be asked to sign the petition.
"If they do so, they're only saying they want a vote on a checkoff," Kelsey said. "By signing the petition, you're not saying you support it or you oppose it, you're just simply saying, I want an opportunity to participate in the referendum vote."
The petition process requires a signature from 10 percent of the state's beef producers. With an estimated 45,000 to 50,000 beef producers in the state, the process will require about 55- hundred signatures. Kelsey is hopeful to meet that goal by the end of the year. Once the signatures are collected, they are sent to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture for the signatures to be verified before a referendum can be announced. Kelsey said that could take approximately 45 to 60 days. By late spring or early summer of 2016, Oklahoma beef producers could be voting on the referendum at local extension offices around the state. To be eligible to vote, an individual will need to have bought or sold cattle within the last year. Each eligible person has one vote.
"It's one man - one vote, the beauty of that system is everybody has an opportunity to be involved," Kelsey said.
Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays caught up with Kelsey at the American Farmers and Ranchers LEAD program held Saturday at the Lazy E Arena near Guthrie. You can hear their conversation by clicking on the LISTEN BAR below.
As the state's beef producers hear about this proposal there will be a lot questions, including why is a state beef checkoff needed? In speaking for OCA, Kelsey said the reason OCA feels a secondary checkoff is needed is because the federal assessment has not been adjusted since the program was established in 1985. He said the power of the dollar has shrunk in the last 30 years, so more funding is needed for beef research, education, market development and promotion in order to position beef at the center of the plate. Kelsey said having a state checkoff would also allow more checkoff resources to stay within the state.
"I'm really comfortable knowing that Oklahoma producers are going to be ones that have total control over this assessment," Kelsey said. "Whereas right now they only have control over 50 percent of the assessment if you will, the current federal program. So they would have control of 100 percent of the assessment and make those decisions on what strategies they want to fund."
The concept of establishing a state beef checkoff program is not new. Kelsey said 14 other states have already established a secondary state beef checkoff. Texas is one of the latest states to set up a program. OCA is working with Texas cattle groups to fully understand how they successfully passed their secondary checkoff, including how they advertised their referendum to make sure producers knew about the proposal. In visiting with other states, Kelsey said they have seen low producer turnout, something Oklahoma does not want to copy. He wants to get as many Oklahoma producers to the polls as possible.
In looking at a state beef checkoff, there will be several similarities and differences. For instance, having a state checkoff will not create a new entity. Kelsey said they want to vest the funding in a well-established organization, the Oklahoma Beef Council (OBC). All assessment funds will be under the complete control of the OBC. Members of the Oklahoma Beef Council board of directors are appointed by commodity organizations that have an interest in the Oklahoma beef cattle industry. The assessment is refundable. This requirement was built into the legislation that outlines a process for any new commodity checkoff program. If you want to receive back your check off assessment, you can simply return a form and your full assessment will be refunded to you.
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