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.

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