National Farmers Union board of directors earlier this week voted to withdraw from the beef checkoff working group, effective immediately.
According to NFU President Roger Johnson, the process of reforming the Beef Checkoff "has become a bridge to nowhere and a waste of time and resources."
Johnson said the working group was designed to bring together vested parties from across the beef industry and to attempt to reach a consensus on substantial reforms that would make the checkoff stronger, but other groups, he explained, are standing in the way of reform.
"NFU remains willing and eager to engage with others who are interested in reforming the beef checkoff, such that it operates in a manner like other checkoff programs," Johnson concluded.
The resolution adopted by the board says:
"NFU has been working for the past three years to reform the beef checkoff system with other beef industry stakeholders. In accordance with NFU's 2014 national convention Special Order of Business on the beef checkoff, NFU is hereby withdrawing from this working group, as the process is unlikely to result in necessary reform. It is time for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to react to beef producers' demand to reform this system."
NFU says the following reforms are necessary:
• The CBB must have the authority to carry out checkoff projects on its own, similar to other checkoff oversight boards.
• The CBB must be allowed to enter into checkoff contracts with non-policy organizations and private companies, such as ad agencies and public relations firms, in order to prevent policy-driven organizations from using checkoff dollars to fund overhead for political activity.
• The beef checkoff must be completely refundable.
• A referendum on the continuation of the beef checkoff must occur every five years.
At NFU's Washington, D.C., fly-in Monday, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said he understands governance concerns and funding challenges regarding the checkoff, but there are resolution options.
"I ... know that there's deep concern about the decision-making process relative to how the checkoff funds are invested," Vilsack told NFU members, alluding to suggestions that certian beef interest groups are allowed more funds than others.
There are two resolution options, Vilsack continued. "Either we continue doing what we're doing, which is satisfactory to no one, or you delegate it to me - the responsibility to ultimately see if there is a new avenue that can be approached."