PART 2: Current Cattle Industry Issues and Policy Development
By Charles Hord, Executive Vice President - Tennessee Cattlemen's Association
Charles@tncattle.org | 615-896-2333
In last week's blog, I shared an update on TCA Policy. I have received some favorable comments regarding TCA Policy and some not so much. One comment I did receive that I thought was important was from a producer that didn't necessarily agree with us on everything but appreciated our transparency. So, in the interest of transparency, here are a few true /false statements and explanations.
#1. TCA receives checkoff funding. FALSE
TCA receives revenue from individual memberships, magazine advertising, Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) trainings and industry sponsorships of meetings and events in that order of income generated. TCA receives small amounts of income from things like logo item sales and social media/email advertising like the ad above. The Tennessee Beef Industry Council (TBIC) is the entity in Tennessee that receives the federal and state checkoff funds.
#2. TCA is affiliated with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA). TRUE
Some producers believe NCBA no longer represent cattle producers due to disagreements over issues such as the Spot Market Bill and Country of Origin Labeling (which was discussed in last week's email update). NCBA has taken some difficult positions on bills and been criticized both internally and by folks from other organizations recently. These issues are complex and can't be summed up in a meme on Facebook. I have sat in on policy discussions at NCBA meetings and it can get heated and disagreements occur between states and areas of the country. Ultimately votes occur and NCBA follows the direction their board members dictate. TCA has three votes on the NCBA Board. The number of NCBA members from each state dictates the number of votes. NCBA is not perfect but their executive board is made up of cattle producers from across the country including Tennessee's own Jennifer Houston, who serves as past president. NCBA participates in discussions with groups like the World Wildlife Fund, Wal Mart, JBS, and others believing it is better to engage and have a seat at the table when discussions are taking place instead of watching from the sidelines. Other cattlemen's groups have claimed NCBA is working with these groups against our interests. I can assure you that is not accurate. TCA has not always agreed with NCBA on policy, but we choose to affiliate with NCBA because they are the most influential and effective cattlemen's association in the world. TCA respects their policy process and appreciates its work on issues such as foreign trade, USDA dietary guidelines, fake meat, vulture and predator damage, Waters of the United States, and more. TCA often follows NCBA's lead on federal policy issues but will undertake our own policy initiatives when needed like joining other state affiliates in calling for a Dept. of Justice Investigation into packer margins. I hope to have an update on this investigation within the next month.
#3. Checkoff funds are used to lobby. FALSE
NCBA uses checkoff funds to promote their own interests/pay bills. FALSE. NCBA is a contractor with the Beef Checkoff which means they contract with the Cattlemen's Beef Board (made up of cattle producers including some from Tennessee) to implement programs of promotion, research, consumer information, industry information, foreign marketing and producer communications. Contractors are reimbursed only for the work they actually do for the Beef Board and are not allowed to make a profit from a checkoff contract. Other entities that contract with the Cattlemen's Beef Board include the American Farm Bureau, The North American Meat Institute, and the National Livestock Producers Association.
NCBA does lobby but they have to account for how checkoff money is spent to make sure it is not used to lobby. NCBA meetings can get complicated as NCBA and the Federation of State Beef Councils discuss and vote on checkoff projects with one set of producer leadership and ballots and then NCBA pivots and discuss policy issues with state affiliates and their producer leadership with their ballots. Regular government audits occur to ensure checkoff funds are never used to lobby and are only used for the purposes dictated by federal statute.
#4. Checkoff funds benefit big producers/feedlots and packers but not small cattle producers. FALSE
Although I work on the policy side and the Tennessee Beef Industry Council (TBIC) handles the checkoff, I do sometimes sit in on their meetings and learn what projects they have going on at the state and national level. In my opinion, the image problem the checkoff has with some producers is due to the fact that the people who pay the checkoff, beef producers, are not the target for checkoff outreach so they often don't know the work that is occurring on their behalf. There are checkoff efforts targeting nutritionists and bloggers that have a large social media presence. The checkoff works with restaurants and grocery stores to promote beef items on the menu and in the meat case. Checkoff dollars target Millennials and members of Generation Z that are forming shopping habits for their growing families. Checkoff funds target middle-class moms in South Korea that have become one of the top export markets for US Beef. Checkoff funds are targeting the growing Chinese middle class as they expand their diets beyond pork and chicken. Checkoff funds helped develop the Flat Iron Steak and Denver Cut so that these cuts had a higher value than previously when they were included in the ground. I don't hear producers that take the time to learn about checkoff programs complain. Visit tnbeef.org or here for the National Checkoff Program website. Like TCA, The Tennessee Beef Industry Council is governed by Tennessee cattle producers that oversee the use of checkoff funds.
Thanks for being a member of the Tennessee Cattlemen's Association