Beef Checkoff approval rating slightly lower

by MEAT&POULTRY Staff
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CENTENNIAL, COLO. — Although down 4% from the last time being measured, beef producers still continue to have a favorable opinion about the Beef Checkoff Program, according to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. In late December and early January, a representative survey of 1,200 beef producers nationwide was conducted by an independent market research firm found that 68% of producers approved of the checkoff, down from 72% a year ago.

The drop in popularity of the checkoff came as no surprise, one insider claims. "With negative market conditions, we expected that overall approval might drop," said Richard Nielson, chairman of the Joint Producer Communications Committee. He added that while the shift in approval is just outside the survey’s statistical margin of error of ±2.8% and is therefore ‘significant,’ the survey found that producers recognize the program has some key strengths and plays an important role in the cattle business.

Most of the polled producers, 83%, felt the checkoff program has helped contribute to a positive trend in consumer demand for beef. Approximately the same number believed the program had value in weak economic conditions and felt the checkoff is on their side during a crisis.

Producers also largely said the program had benefited their own operations. Approximately seven in 10 thought that over the years the beef checkoff helped contribute to the profitability of their operations. Sixty-four percent believed the checkoff program is being managed well.

Beef packers and processors have also benefitted from the checkoff. "Producers through their $1-per head checkoff have invested millions in research that has led to the development and approval of interventions for use in packing plants to control pathogens," Lynn Heinze, executive director, producer communications, Cattlemen’s Beef Board, told MEATPOULTRY.com. "Steam-wash techniques, acid rinse and other techniques are examples. In addition, new cutting methods have added value to what were undervalued portions of the carcass. The net result is that the industry has benefited and packers have found more valuable uses for the carcasses they process."

Producer approval of the checkoff has ranged from the mid-60%- to the mid-70% range for more than a decade, Mr. Nielson said. "As our researchers pointed out, the current economic situation certainly played a role in pulling approval lower, he added. "But we also know that approval is tied to how informed producers are about the program. Our challenge, therefore, remains to help producers get to know their program by providing many different information choices."

Despite year-to-year cuts in the producer communications budget, his committee recommended an information program that includes paid ads in producer-read publications and on television, an online presence anchored by the MyBeefCheckoff.com Web site, work with agricultural editors and broadcasters on stories about the checkoff, and direct e-newsletters for beef and dairy producers.

A copy of the research report is available online.

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