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Published September 23, 2013, 09:37 AM

Beef producers seek higher checkoff

Minnesota cattle producers will vote in February on whether to double their state checkoff.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Minnesota cattle producers will vote in February on whether to double their state checkoff. The proposed checkoff, if approved, would raise an estimated $500,000 to $750,000 to promote beef raised in the state.

“There’s so much potential for beef production in Minnesota. This is our opportunity to help our entire industry expand in Minnesota,” says Dar Geiss, a Pierz, Minn., cattle producer and president of the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association.

Currently, in an arrangement that dates to 1985, the Minnesota Beef Council collects $1 for every head sold. It sends 50 cents of that to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to use in national marketing efforts, and keeps 50 cents to be spent by the Minnesota Beef Council.

Under the proposal, an additional dollar per head would be assessed, with all the money staying in Minnesota.

Given three decades of inflation, “a dollar doesn’t stretch as far as it used to. We’d like to do more,” Geiss says.

Boosters of the proposal list a number of ways in which the additional money would be spent, including:

•Branding Minnesota beef producers as family farmers committed to raising healthy food for Minnesota families.

•Developing a website that engages with consumers.

•Working with professionals in the state’s retail and restaurant industries.

•Working with food editors, free-lancers and bloggers to produce timely stories about beef.

Consumers increasingly want to know where their food comes from and what goes into it, a desire the additional checkoff money would help satisfy, Geiss says.

Several other states have similar state-specific beef checkoff programs, Geiss says.

Backers of the Minnesota proposal have established there’s a need. Cattle prices have risen sharply since 1985, and most producers in the state seem to think the proposed increase is fair, he says.

“We haven’t heard a lot of negative. There have been more positives,” he says.

If approved, the checkoff would be assessed on all beef cattle sold in the state. Producers could get a refund, however, if they ask for one.

To be eligible to vote on the proposal, Minnesota cattle producers must be signed up by Dec. 15. To learn more, visit www.raisedwithpride.com.

In another matter, Geiss says his organization hopes to interview candidates this fall to replace Joe Martin, its former executive director. Martin stepped down from the cattlemen’s group to become the communications manager for Dupont Pioneer’s northern business unit.

The goal is to have Martin’s successor in place by the end of the year, Geiss says.

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