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October 31, 2003   Email to Friend 

National Beef Checkoff in Jeopardy
Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
October 31, 2003

Cattle producers in Alabama have an opportunity Nov. 18 to approve a voluntary self-help program that will benefit the individual producer and the state's cattle industry.

The statewide referendum is among cattle owners and, if approved, would reactivate the state's beef checkoff program. This program began in 1962 and has been approved by cattle owners in eight separate statewide votes. The state program was set aside when the national checkoff program started 18 years ago.

Cattle producers from across Alabama, working with the Alabama Cattlemen's Association (ACA), developed and approved a three-year strategic plan to meet the challenges and opportunities facing the state's cattle industry.

Passage of the 50-cent-per-head referendum will provide the necessary funding to carry out this strategic plan.

Programs will include: assistance for producers when marketing cattle; making compliance with regulations for mandatory animal identification and country-of-origin labeling easier and less costly for producers; expanding programs to educate youth about beef nutrition and the importance of the beef cattle industry; and implementing programs designed to continue increasing consumer demand for beef.

The State Board of Agriculture authorized the ACA to conduct a referendum among cattle owners to reactivate the state checkoff program.

This voluntary self-help program contains a refund provision and calls for a referendum among cattle owners every five years. A "YES" vote has been endorsed by the Alabama Cattlemen's Association Board of DirectorS.

The ACA was authorized by the State Board of Agriculture to conduct this referendum and to carry out the beef checkoff program. A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals recently denied a request for a hearing by the entire court of its earlier 3-0 decision, which found the national beef checkoff is unconstitutional. A petition for rehearing filed by the defendants in this case, USDA Secretary Ann Veneman, the Cattlemen's Beef Board, Nebraska Cattlemen, Inc., and two South Dakota cattlemen, was denied.

In July, a three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Beef Promotion and Research Act violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. At the same time, the court said the program may continue while the parties decide whether to ask the full Circuit Court to reconsider the decision.

The Court's final order, implementing their decision, is now expected very soon. In light of this latest development, it's not clear what the next steps may be relative to the beef checkoff and also what kind of impact it will have on this and other checkoff programs.

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