Bill to Change Beef Checkoff Brought to Senate

Several amendments to the checkoff program suggested.

Senator Jon Tester, D-Mont., has introduced a bill that would modify the beef checkoff program. The Beef Checkoff Modernization Act of 2008 would update the 1985 act that created the beef checkoff. While formally announcing the bill Tester told a group of ranchers in Billings, Mont. the program has been a good one, but could use a few changes.

"Right now we use the checkoff dollars to promote beef. Period. You know, 'Beef, it's What's for Dinner,' what we are going to try to do is make it U.S. beef the choice for dinner," Tester said. "It raises about $80 million a year for market research and marketing and it's a great opportunity for ranchers to compete with imported beef. It just needs some modifications. These are not huge things, they are just common sense modifications."

Under the bill 30% of checkoff dollars would be used to promote U.S. beef, a referendum vote of cattle producers on the checkoff would be held every seven years and it would also allow organizations that weren't in existence when the original checkoff was instituted to bid for contracts to promote U.S. beef.

"Currently when the Beef Checkoff was enacted it would allow bids to promote beef with agencies that existed in 1986 and that's the way it's been for 22 years," Tester said. "This would allow organizations to bid for the contracts to promote U.S. beef that weren't around in '86."

Tester says that this bill will not replace the 22-year-old Beef Promotion and Research Act, it will simply amend it, and is not attempting to change the rate of the checkoff.

"I think that needs to be done by the producers, not me," Tester said. "I think if the producers want the rate increased then they need to vote for it, because they are the ones getting that benefit, if they want to pay additional dollars for promotion they should the ones given that option."

The bill, S. 3404, was published in the Federal Register this week and Tester says he wants to work with stakeholders to iron out details and bring the Beef Checkoff Modernization Act to the front burner when Congress reconvenes in January.

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