The national beef checkoff was established in 1985, and "a lot has changed since then," according to Bill Donald, a cow/calf producer from Montana and past president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. (NCBA).
The global population has increased from 4.8 billion people to 7.0 billion people, he said, corn has tripled in price, fed cattle prices have more than doubled, retail-level beef prices have more than doubled and the $1 that's checked off is now worth just 47 cents.
The beef checkoff collects $1 per head in all cattle selling transactions and funds beef advertising and promotion, consumer information, industry research and producer education. It was established by Congress, and checking off is mandatory.
The checkoff is managed by the Cattlemen's Beef Board, and NCBA is the board's primary contractor for checkoff programs.
Donald, co-chair of NCBA's demand resource working group, in remarks to NCBA's board of directors Feb. 9, introduced a plan to "enhance" the checkoff with an additional voluntary collection.
Co-chair Dave Hamilton, a cow/calf producer from Nebraska, noted that beef checkoff revenues are declining while pork checkoff revenues are increasing, decreasing the competitiveness of beef in the retail stores next to pork.
He said increasing beef demand is "a big concern" given how retail-level beef prices are increasing and unemployment is not recovering. The industry needs more resources to address this, he said.
He also said the industry needs more resources to address activist challenges, including ones surrounding animal rights, the environment and human health and nutrition.
He said the first opportunity to raise those resources through the checkoff, as this would require legislation, would be through a farm bill in 2015 or later. However, a voluntary effort does not require legislation, he said.
Donald said NCBA is working with other organizations with interests in the beef industry, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, National Livestock Producers Assn. and U.S. Cattlemen's Assn., to create a united front to encourage producers to contribute to a voluntary program.
Scripting the voluntary effort "is a work in progress," Donald said, but currently, the concept would be to set an amount that would be paid by feedlots and matched by packers, with ranchers and stockers also being encouraged to make contributions.
He said the resource working group hopes to be prepared to present the full program to the NCBA board at its summer meeting in August.
The board met during the 2013 Annual Cattle Industry Convention & Trade Show.
The board passed a related resolution saying should NCBA pursue enhancements in the actual checkoff, the improvements should be targeted at building beef demand effectively and efficiently, assuring that the checkoff is accountable to producers, enabling strong national and state partnerships that maintain state input, maximizing grassroots involvement, minimizing government control and restoring the ability to fund programs "to a significant level."