For the past few years, Iowa cattle producers have shown interest in increasing the funding for beef promotion and production research specific to Iowa. One potential source of funding that has surfaced in the discussion is the possibility of reinstating the Iowa beef checkoff.
Prior to establishment of the national beef checkoff, Iowa had its own checkoff through the Iowa code, Chapter 181. While the state law remained intact, the Iowa checkoff assessment was repealed following approval of the national checkoff. The national beef checkoff was authorized in the 1985 Farm Bill. Producers voted and approved the program in a referendum in 1988, which led to collection of the $1-per-head national beef checkoff. From that time until now, national checkoff dollars have been used to increase demand for beef and beef products in the U.S. and internationally.
Cattlemen are moving forward to reinstate Iowa beef checkoff
Because of the positive results shown in a recent survey of its members, the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association is moving forward to reinstate the Iowa beef checkoff. A statewide beef producer referendum is expected to be held later this year, seeking producer approval.
The new state checkoff funds collected in Iowa, at 50 cents per head, would stay in the state. The national checkoff would continue to be collected in Iowa. The state beef council can retain up to 50 cents of the national $1-per-head checkoff, but at least 50 cents of the national checkoff must be sent to the national Cattlemen’s Beef Board, according to federal rules governing the national checkoff.
State checkoff funds collected in Iowa will stay in Iowa
Several directives and resolutions have been approved by ICA members that support reinstating the state checkoff, says Matt Deppe, ICA executive director. If it is reinstated by the referendum, the state checkoff as now proposed would be a mandatory collection, with a voluntary refund provision. State checkoff funds collected in Iowa would go to the Iowa Beef Industry Council, not the national Cattlemen’s Beef Board.
While the state checkoff would provide funding for industry needs in Iowa, the more important aspect is the ability to use checkoff funds more flexibly and more comprehensively outside the scope of the national beef checkoff, Deppe says. For example, Iowa beef producers would have more versatility to fund the production research the Iowa beef industry needs, while also funding the issue-based beef industry responses to policy issues of concern to cattlemen without the restrictions and oversight of USDA.
ICA members surveyed to gauge interest in state checkoff
In late 2015, all ICA producer members received a survey to gauge interest in a state checkoff initiative. Over 900 survey results were tabulated and 80% of those surveyed supported reinstating the 50-cent-per-head state checkoff. Survey respondents represented all sectors of the beef industry and every county in Iowa.
“With a softening cattle market, we wondered if producers would look at the long-term impacts of this move to re-establish a state checkoff. We wanted to be sure we had a clear picture of where Iowa cattle producers stand on this issue. They’ve shown support for a state checkoff and our producers and board voted to move forward with the initiative,” says Deppe.
Priorities identified for potential use of state checkoff dollars
Not only did the survey gauge the interest of ICA members to reinstate the Iowa beef checkoff, but more importantly it asked members to prioritize the investment of funds collected through the state assessment. The survey results revealed that the national beef checkoff, due to federal code constraints, is not fully meeting the needs of the Iowa cattle industry. Cattle producers who participated in the survey ranked the importance of the following priorities for potential state dollars and additional investments:
•Marketing and promoting Iowa beef and beef products.
•Enhancing Iowa’s beef industry image by marketing the Iowa producer image and communicating transparency.
•Production research that focuses on the state’s weather, feedstuffs and management practices.
•Expanding international trade relationships.
•Providing educational opportunities for Iowa cattlemen and Iowa youth.
Iowa is not the only state looking at ways to increase checkoff investments to further promote, enhance and market their beef industries. Fourteen states have a state beef checkoff assessment in addition to the national checkoff. Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio and Texas, currently have a $1-per-head state checkoff. The seven other states (Idaho, Illinois, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Washington) have a 50-cent state checkoff. Missouri is currently moving forward to approve a $1-per-head state checkoff.
ICA leaders outline next steps in the reinstatement process
The next step for ICA is to continue communication with cattlemen across the state regarding the Iowa beef checkoff proposal, says Deppe. “We continue to accept feedback as ICA staff work with the Iowa Department of Agriculture to develop a referendum to reinstate the Iowa checkoff. Because each producer has the ability to vote yes or no to support the referendum, it is imperative that non-members are aware of the checkoff initiative.”
When reviewing Chapter 181 of the Iowa Code, ICA leaders concluded that portions of the law are outdated, confusing and irrelevant to today’s Iowa beef cattle industry. So, during the 2016 Iowa legislative session, ICA is lobbying for amendments to Chapter 181 that will better align with cattle producers’ vision for the Iowa beef checkoff.
Amendments ICA wants to make in the Iowa checkoff law
With input from producer members, ICA is seeking several enhancements to the current law. In addition to providing a more flexible approach for producers to obtain refunds when desired, producers also asked the association to update the priority uses for funding. “Our efforts are based on our producers’ input and interests,” says Deppe. “Reinstating the Iowa checkoff and enhancing the Iowa law are topics our producer members have discussed for over four years.”
The proposed adjustments to code are connected to updating the priority uses of funding on behalf of Iowa’s beef business. “While a majority of funding uses will remain the same, our producer membership is interested in using the dollars to better their operational success through producer education and production research,” he adds.
ICA wants to strike cattle feeding contests and demonstrations from the section of the law that specifies uses allowed for checkoff dollars. But funds will be used for traditional promotion and marketing. ICA also seeks to streamline the engagement of decision makers in carrying out the state checkoff.
Legislation has been introduced in 2016 Iowa Legislature
These changes have been included in House Study Bill 561, sponsored by Rep. Lee Hein (chair of House Ag Committee) and in Senate Study Bill 3131, sponsored by Sen. Joe Seng (chair of Senate Ag Committee). “The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association will continue to lobby for these progressive changes during the 2016 legislative session,” says Deppe. “If ICA members are interested in talking with their legislator about these amendments, please contact our ICA office in Ames.”
ICA anticipates a referendum vote to be held among beef producers statewide later on in 2016. ICA will inform producers on when, where and how the vote will take place. “If you did not complete a survey and would like to do so now, contact the ICA office 515-296-2266. Your input is important to us,” says Deppe. For more information, visit iacattlemen.org.