Every time a cow is sold in Texas, a dollar of that sale goes to industry groups that use it to promote and research beef. It’s part of a national program called the “beef checkoff,” and that charge will now rise to two dollars in Texas after a statewide vote by cattle owners.
The vote to raise the fee passed by nearly 67 percent. The results were announced Wednesday and hailed by agriculture and cattle industry groups, who say the money is needed to keep beef competitive.
“The beef checkoff program was initiated (at one dollar per sale) back in the 1980s; we’re down to about 40 cents on the dollar for that value today,” says Jay Evans, Chair of the Natural Resource and Environment Committee of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. The association has received support from the beef checkoff program and nominates members to the board that distributes money from the program.
The existing program splits the dollar charge between national and state groups. The new charge approved by the recent vote will stay in Texas and be controlled by the Texas Beef Council.
“We’ve enjoyed the national beef checkoff, we just felt like at this time that a state checkoff program was probably more feasible to get done,” says Evans. ”It just gives a little bit more local control over what we’re doing from a marketing and a research and development standpoint.”
The Texas checkoff was opposed by some cattle owners who believe the money promotes larger industrial beef operations at the expense of smaller grass-fed operations.
Opponents point out that turnout was extremely low: only about three percent of the estimated 150,000 eligible cattle owners voted, says Judith McGeary with the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA).
“What we have is a small number of generally large industry folks, or people who believe the large industry’s promises, voting to impose a tax on tens of thousands of other people,” says McGeary.
7,013 eligible votes were cast last month. Those votes were counted and validated by the Texas Department of Agriculture before they were released today. The department says it deemed 201 ballots ineligible to be counted.