The Washington State Beef Checkoff program is seeking to increase the per-head tax on cattle sales from $1.50 to $2.50 in the coming year. SCCA is opposed to this notion for reasons we recently shared with the measure’s potential sponsors, Rep. Tom Dent and Sen. Judy Warnick. See below:
December 13, 2016
Dear Senator Warnick and Representative Dent,
We are writing to OPPOSE any increase to the Washington State Beef Checkoff Assessment and strongly urge you not to support a bill that would increase the tax burden on our ranch families.
The current $1.50 per head Beef Checkoff fee for cattle sold in Washington is not actually helping Washington State ranch families, as the marketing dollars do not specifically highlight or promote their product—beef raised in the U.S. and in the great state of Washington. A generic “beef” campaign is being used by the Washington Beef Commission which fails to alert consumers to the very real differences in quality between U.S. raised beef and beef from countries like Canada, Mexico, Australia and many countries in Latin America. To fail to recognize the higher standards achieved in the U.S. is to deceive the consumer and the only real beneficiary of the campaign is the end salesman—the multi-national meat companies like Tyson who would prefer the consumer never be able to tell the difference.
As the numbers of ranchers is continuing to decline in Washington, the WA Beef Commission does not seem to find a problem with taking their ineffective, generic marketing campaign back to ranch families and asking them to pay more for a program that is not working for them. The Beef Checkoff program has not kept Washington’s ranchers in business, as recent research indicates.
According to recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are less than 10 ranchers left in the state of Washington with more than 1,000 head of cattle and there were less than 200 operations left with enough cattle to be considered a full-time enterprise. In fact, the number of ranchers in our state has dropped by 52 percent since 1984. Those who survived have experienced a severe drop in live cattle prices in the last two years, dropping from a high of nearly $3.00 a pound in calf prices down to just over $1.00 a pound this fall.
The Washington State Beef Commission should take a great interest in recognizing the negative long-term trends that threaten the survival of the cattle industry in Washington State, including subsidized imports, and actively work to promote the product of the U.S. cattleman over all others.
If the commission fails to make this very important reform, the program should be abolished and we are confident that Tyson and other large meat retailers will find a way to market their own product. Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association DOES NOT support and increase to the Beef Checkoff at this time and seriously recommends the program be scrutinized not for its ability to sell “beef” but to act as an effective marketing campaign for the people paying the bill: the U.S. rancher.
Justin Hedrick, President
Scott Nielsen, Vice President