A Nebraska Cattlemen task force this spring made the right decision, at least for now, to back off from pursuing for a state-based beef checkoff in Nebraska. After more than a year's worth of background work, public meetings and a survey, task force members decided against seeking legislative action in 2014 on a $1 per-head state checkoff, one that would have been in addition to the $1 national checkoff.
The drought's harsh impacts on cattlemen and poor market conditions were cited as the reasons to stay the course for now. Dave Hamilton, Thedford rancher and task force chairman, said 60% of those who were handed in surveys at the input meetings opposed the additional checkoff.
It wasn't only the assessment of another $1 per head that bothered cattlemen. Some were concerned about checkoff collections in non-brand areas of the state as well as how national checkoff dollars are used by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
Nebraska's beef producers have spoken, and that's why the task force sought their input. But it doesn't solve the problem the beef industry faces in the need to respond to the ever louder anti-meat and animal rights movements in this country. Somehow, the industry must figure out how to fight back more effectively against the misinformation being spread to consumers who seemingly are willing to absorb whatever these groups spew. It will take more dollars to fight back with better information programs that include producers themselves.
It's not just the regular suspects—extreme animal rights activists, environmental groups, celebrity vegetarians, and dieticians and scientists with personal causes—that attempt to turn consumers away from beef and other meats. USDA has had its part in it, too.