Hamilton is a low-key rancher who has been an active member in beef organizations for many years. He once was a member of the Nebraska Beef Council, which determines how to spend the state's 50-cent share of the $1 per head national checkoff. He handled the meetings this winter in a professional manner, getting support but also taking some criticism for the idea.
The task force, put together nearly a year ago, lays out three key reasons why it believes more revenues are needed.
•Inflation since the national checkoff was enacted in 1985 has reduced revenues from $1 to 47 cents. That means beef promotion, education and national and international marketing program funds aren't as effective as they could be, the task force says.
•Since 1985, the national inventory of beef cows has dropped from 39 million to 29 million today, a loss of 10 million head. That's resulted in lower checkoff collections.
•The industry must adjust to changing attitudes and tastes of consumers who desire to know more about where their food comes from. They demand more convenient beef products, but know little about how food is produced. This requires changes in how beef is marketed, Hamilton says.
Additionally, the beef industry's response to the attacks against agriculture and meat consumption by extremist groups must be refined and beefed up, if you will. Those groups do in fact want meat off consumers' plates and have no real concern about the need and desire for more animal protein in developing nations.
Several producers at the meetings wondered why the national checkoff rate isn't increased to address these needs rather than creating a new checkoff in Nebraska. Hamilton said there is interest expressed at the national level in doing so, but responded that a Nebraska checkoff would be able to move faster through the implementation stages.
There were the inevitable questions about the impact of checkoffs, as in "what has it done for me?" That's a difficult issue to quantify, regardless of what checkoff you're talking about and doesn't take into account what beef demand and visibility would be without the many checkoff-funded programs.