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Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 20, 2007
by WLJ
October 22, 2007

North Dakota Stockmen’s Association (NDSA) members gave the beef industry’s 21-year-old research, promotion and education program a vote of support at their 78th annual convention in Bismarck, ND, Sept. 29. Members approved the Beef Checkoff Program resolution which celebrates the success of the checkoff in building beef demand and supports the four structural changes recommended by the Industry-Wide Beef Checkoff Task Force last year.

“The beef checkoff already has a long list of accomplishments for our industry—from turning around falling beef demand to maintaining consumer confidence during what could have been the BSE crisis,” said NDSA President Mark Huseth of McLeod, ND. “We are looking for more great things in the future as our industry works to improve its position in an increasingly competitive market.”

NDSA members have been contemplating their position on the checkoff recommendations, which include increasing the per-head assessment to $2, establishing a system for a periodic checkoff referendum, expanding the criteria for eligible checkoff contractors, and increasing the understanding of the Federation of State Beef Councils, for the last year. At the 2006 annual convention, they directed staff and leaders to find out more about the recommendations and present those findings to them so they could make up their own minds. NDSA issued two member surveys soliciting input on the topic and highlighted the implications of each recommendation at the NDSA Spring Roundups and again at this year’s convention. John Huston, the former National Live Stock & Meat Board and National Cattlemen’s Association executive who served as moderator of the Industry-Wide Checkoff Task Force, led the convention discussion to offer an insider’s perspective to the proposed changes.

Huston explained that task force members proposed the increased checkoff investment based largely on inflation since the assessment has not been changed since it was first initiated. It takes $1.90 in 2007 to equal the buying power of $1 in 1986. Task force members suggested that some of the additional funds could be invested to build demand, increase exports and re-establish an advertising presence on network television, Huston said.

For the average North Dakota producer, the change would mean an estimated $85 more per year, based on the average herd size in North Dakota.

All but the recommendation to increase understanding of the Federation of State Beef Councils would require a federal law change and a producer vote.

At the NDSA convention, members also voted to oppose the sale of hunting, recreational and other access rights that effectively sever those from the surface of the land.

“Severing certain land-use rights can have a long-term negative impact on a landowner’s or a lessee’s ability to manage his or her operation,” Huseth explained. “Consider the problems when a livestock producer and another who owns the recreational access rights to a parcel, for instance, have competing access needs. And consider when the person who owns the recreational access rights passes away and wills those rights to succeeding generations, and those generations will the rights on to their succeeding generations. Before long, dozens of people could be fighting for access to the same piece of property at the same time. Who decides then who can be on and when? It could make for a very messy situation.”

Access rights have become a top-of-mind issue since they were brought up in the House and Senate Natural Resources Committees during this year’s state legislative session. Unable to reach a consensus on the issue, legislators opted to gather more input and study it further during the interim. NDSA will be presenting its Access Rights resolution to the interim committee when it meets sometime in the year ahead.

NDSA officers will also be presenting members’ Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) and National Animal Identification System (NAIS) resolutions to legislators before the programs are developed and implemented.

NDSA’s COOL resolution supports an efficient, accurate and least burdensome program that requires all cattle to be born, fed and processed in the U.S. to receive the USDA grade stamp. It also calls for all live cattle imported into the U.S. to be branded or identified with their country of origin and the balance assumed as U.S. product.

Members renewed the resolution, which first passed in 2004, in the wake of the looming COOL implementation day next September. “The policy reiterates our belief that COOL doesn’t have to be a complicated, cumbersome program in order to give consumers the information they want and producers the opportunity to brand their product as American,” Huseth said.

NDSA favors the COOL program outlined in the U.S. House’s version of the Farm Bill—a much closer match to its COOL resolution—over what is outlined in the impending rule. “With the COOL rule, the devil is in the details,” Huseth explained. “It requires third-party verification of origin, opens up producers’ records to other industry segments, and exempts key beef products, such as those offered through foodservice, from the labeling requirements.”

Huseth is hopeful the U.S. Senate maintains the essence of the House’s version of COOL when it marks up the Farm Bill and adds the other few components NDSA members outlined in their resolution.

The NAIS resolution is another policy members renewed at the September convention. “It re-emphasizes the NDSA’s belief that any animal identification program be market driven and incorporate the brand programs that have served as viable traceback systems for nearly eight decades,” Huseth explained.

Adequate cell phone coverage is an issue that has emerged over the last decade. At the convention, NDSA members also adopted a new policy encouraging wider-spread cell phone coverage in rural areas to address the needs of rural-based businesses.
“A strong communication system is necessary for economic development and maintaining a strong business climate,” the resolution explains.

State-of-the-art beef research is also necessary to maintain a strong livestock industry, members maintain in the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Research Facility Construction resolution. In it, members direct university officials to take “quick and decisive action” to replace the condemned Beef Research Laboratory on NDSU’s main campus. The North Dakota Legislature authorized $80,000 for the project and spending authority of $1 million during the 2007 session. Additional funding may also be available through USDA’s formula funding if applied for soon, Huseth said.

“A new facility can help move our industry forward by meeting current and future research needs,” he said.

A complete list of NDSA’s newly passed and renewed resolutions will be available soon in the 2007 NDSA Resolutions Book. For a free copy, call 701/223-2522 or e-mail