Monday, August 24, 2009

Checkoff Group Goes to Washington DC

A team of 10 people from the Christmas tree industry met with five USDA officials in August to discuss a potential Checkoff program. The group asked that USDA consider a program that would include:
  • An assessment rate of 15 cents per harvested tree.
  • An exemption for anyone that sells less than 500 trees per year.
  • An exemption for anyone that imports less than 500 trees per year (USDA requires that importers be treated similarly to domestic producers, so our original request that there be no exemptions on imports was not possible.)
  • A delayed referendum, to take place within 3 years of the start of the program so the industry can see what the program is like before deciding whether to continue or not.
  • That each company subject to the assessment would have one vote in each referendum.

The 1996 Act, which is the legal authority for checkoff provides that:

  • The checkoff be governed by an independent board with representation proportionate to production.
  • 10% of the income would be set aside for a temporary refund program, which would available to those requesting refunds prior to a referendum passing. This amount would be prorated if refund requests exceed the 10% set aside.
  • If the initial referendum passes, a subsequent referendum would be held every 5 years.

USDA will consider the request and get back to the group.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Christmas Tree Checkoff Moving Forward

The Checkoff Study Task Force, after studying the industry and various checkoff programs for the last year, recommends asking USDA to consider a Checkoff program for the Christmas Tree industry that would include:
* Forming a new, independent Christmas Tree Promotion Board to direct the program, with board members being selected from multiple regions in proportion to the amount of production in each region.
* An assessment rate of 15 cents per harvested tree
* Exempting producers who harvest fewer than 500 trees per year
* Assessing imported trees, but also exempting those that import less than 500 trees
* Holding a referendum after three years to determine the continuation of the program, in which each producer subject to and complying with the assessment will be entitled to vote
* Subsequent referendums be held at least once every five years
* Allowing producers to request a refund of assessments collected prior to the first referendum.

After hearing feedback from members and many of the state and regional associations, NCTA's Board of Directors, during a conference call held March 10, voted to support a proposed Checkoff program as outlined.

The Checkoff Task Force will pursue working out remaining details with an attorney and USDA and continue to communicate with NCTA and state/regional associations. The recommendations of the task force are not final, and modifications may be required as the process unfolds. At some point, USDA will publish a proposed rule, followed by a 30 to 60 day comment period, during which all associations and individuals will be encouraged to send comments to USDA. More information will be provided as it becomes available.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Recent Article in "Beef Checkoff News"

Approval Of Beef Checkoff Slightly Lower
Still, Producers Recognize Underlying Program Strengths

Producers continue to have a favorable opinion about the Beef Checkoff Program, despite the current economic challenges facing the industry. A representative survey of 1,200 beef producers nationwide was conducted by an independent market research firm in late December and early January and found that 68 percent of producers approved of the checkoff, down from 72 percent a year ago.

“With negative market conditions we expected that overall approval might drop,” said Richard Nielson, an Ephraim, Utah, cow-calf producer and chairman of the Joint Producer Communications Committee. He said while the shift in approval is just outside the survey’s statistical margin of error of ±2.8 percent and is therefore ‘significant,’ the survey found that producers recognize the program has some key strengths and plays an important role in the cattle business.

Producers were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements about the checkoff. A large majority, 83 percent, felt the checkoff program has helped contribute to a positive trend in consumer demand for beef. About the same number believed the program had value in weak economic conditions and were confident the checkoff is on their side during a crisis. When it comes to their own operation, producers largely said the program had benefited them. Approximately seven in 10 thought that over the years the beef checkoff helped contribute to the profitability of their operations. Management of the checkoff was viewed favorably as well. Nearly two-thirds, 64 percent, believed the checkoff program is being managed well.

“Producer approval of the checkoff has ranged from the mid-60 to the mid-70 percent range for more than a decade. As our researchers pointed out, the current economic situation certainly played a role in pulling approval lower. But we also know that approval is tied to how informed producers are about the program. Our challenge, therefore, remains to help producers get to know their program by providing many different information choices,” Nielson said. He noted that despite year-to-year cuts in the producer communications budget, his committee recommended an information program that includes paid ads in producer-read publications and on television, an online presence anchored by the Web site, work with agricultural editors and broadcasters on stories about the checkoff, and direct e-newsletters for beef and dairy producers.

“Our goal is to make learning about the beef checkoff as easy and as available as possible for producers everywhere,” Neilson said. A copy of the research report is available online.

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The Beef Checkoff Program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.