The Montana Beef Council (MBC) is waiting on producers to return their assessment form that would keep half of the Beef Checkoff dollar, or 50 cents, in Montana.
When producers sell cattle or calves, they pay $1-per-head to support beef promotion, research and information through the Beef Promotion and Research Act.
The MBC has always been charged with collecting the monthly assessments in Montana.
But because of a recent lawsuit that the Montana Beef Council was not a party in, a preliminary injunction requires the MBC to forward all federal Beef Checkoff Program funds directly to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, unless a producer has already signed the form that allows MBC to keep half.
“What that means is we cannot go ahead with our beef programs until we receive assessment forms from those producers who sell cattle. Most producers don’t even know about it,” said Chaley Harney, executive director of the Montana Beef Council.
Harney pointed out they had received about 1,000 forms, but “the Department of Livestock tells us there are about 45,000 producers in Montana.”
The Montana Beef Council was created in 1954 by cattlemen as a marketing organization for the Montana beef industry. It is one of 43 state beef councils. A 12-member board of directors guides the Montana Beef Council and those members are appointed or elected by membership organizations.
The MBC would like to invest $860,000 into beef promotion, education, consumer information, industry information, foreign marketing and producer communication programs in fiscal year 2018, which began Oct. 1.
At its Sept. 20 meeting in Billings, the volunteer MBC board of directors approved 26 project funding requests for checkoff funding.
Current MBC president is Jim Taber, cow-calf producer and backgrounder from Shawmut, Mont., and MBC vice-president is Kiley Martinell, a cow-calf producer from Dell, Mont. Officer terms are two years in length.
The board preliminarily approved requests from 18 different organizations that will strive toward the mission of protecting and increasing demand for beef and beef products.
The fiscal year 2018 Work Plan for the Montana Beef Council includes:
- $30,023 for in-state education programs, including American Heart Association partnerships, children’s museum presence, health professional beef education, Team Beef athletes, classroom education, farm fairs, health professional pasture to plate tour and tradeshows across the state;
- $45,500 for promotional programs, focusing on in-state tradeshows, consumer radio and digital advertising, barbecue cook-offs, a meat processor competition, a foodservice partnership and a targeted consumer event in the Northeast United States;
- $16,250 for in-state beef safety and issues management comprised of the Montana Beef Quality Assurance program, as well as disseminating accurate information about the beef community to counter misinformation;
- $30,510 for in-state producer communications, which includes producer outreach using digital and radio communication as well direct communications to producers about checkoff results;
- $260,000 for domestic consumer marketing to continue consumer outreach, digital advertising, beef safety research, nutrition research, quality research, issues management, retail support, influencer engagement and foodservice support; and
- $113,600 for foreign marketing and education in over 80 countries including Japan, China, Latin America and many more.
Other anticipated expenses funded through the budget include $353,367 for administration, which includes office lease, insurance, equipment, office supplies, postage, telephone, Department of Livestock administration expenses, collection administration expenses, board expenses, travel for programs and producer communication and administrative staff compensation for program implementation.
The complaint was filed on May 2, 2016. The national organization, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA), filed a complaint in the District Court for the District of Montana Great Falls Division, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, against Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture for the United States Department of Agriculture. R-CALF alleges that the current administration of the federal Beef Checkoff Program in Montana violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution by allowing Montana Beef Council (MBC) to use a portion of cattle producers’ assessments paid to the federal beef checkoff to fund promotional campaigns by the MBC, without first obtaining permission in advance from those producers.
A judge granted a preliminary injunction, and now the MBC must have a written permission assessment form from producers before it can keep half of the checkoff dollars.
“Currently, we can’t implement any programs until the assessment forms are returned,” Harney said. “If we don’t receive the forms, the money stays at the national level.”
The form is available at www.MontanaBeefCouncil.org or by calling the Montana Beef Council at 406-656-3336.
Source: SUE ROESLER, The Prairie Star