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Published April 28, 2014, 11:06 AM

Disappointment in beef checkoff referendum

It is disheartening to learn the Minnesota beef checkoff referendum did not pass. Thank you to the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association and fellow producers who worked to help get the referendum passed.

By: Dennis Swan, Agweek

It is disheartening to learn the Minnesota beef checkoff referendum did not pass. Thank you to the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association and fellow producers who worked to help get the referendum passed. These leaders worked hard to encourage producer participation and provide information for what the state checkoff could do. In voting, you’ve proven your care and concern for the future of our industry and understand the need to increase our beef promotion efforts.

For several years, I served as chairman of the Minnesota Beef Council board, so I know how valuable the beef story is for consumers to hear. The Minnesota Beef Council has an outstanding history of leveraging Minnesota beef producers’ checkoff dollars to the fullest extent to promote our beef product to Minnesota’s 5.5 million consumers. A 2009 study shows for every dollar invested in the beef checkoff, the industry had a return of $5.55.

It concerns me that in the past five years, beef has been losing market shares in the meat case. With forecasted retail prices continuing to climb, it is more important than ever to invest in beef research, promotion and education. As developing countries’ economies continue to strengthen, they increase protein consumption, especially beef. This is an opportunity for the beef industry to explode.

Many producers have vocalized frustration with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s position on country of origin labeling (COOL). It is important for producers to remember that the Cattlemen’s Beef Board contracts with NCBA on beef checkoff programs, but the COOL issue was not a checkoff related issue, therefore not funded by the checkoff. The policy division of NCBA covered all expenses related to opposition of COOL.

For years, I have received the Canadian Cattlemen’s magazine to keep up with what they are doing in research, production, marketing and feed rations. Canadian Cattlemen voted to increase their checkoff another dollar to $4 per head in 2014 and another 50 cents, in 2015 with only five votes from cattle producers opposed to the increase.

The same day, I heard the Minnesota beef state checkoff did not pass, we received news that Ohio voted 72 percent in favor of the $1 state checkoff. They will be added to states such as Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, North Carolina and Washington who have also increased their checkoff investment.

In many ways, Minnesota has been a leader in the beef industry. Whether it has been Beef Quality Assurance, beef research or agriculture production practices. The “no” vote by beef producers, tells me that we are taking a step backward as industry leaders.

I wish, moving forward, producers would vote based on the facts and information, rather than their emotions.

Editor’s note: Swan is a retired Minnesota Beef Council chairman.

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