Dozens of cattle producers met Wednesday in Sedalia to talk about a proposed $1-per-head state beef checkoff. That would be in addition to the $1-dollar-per-head national beef checkoff, which pays for promotion, research, and marketing of the beef industry.

A checkoff program has to be approved by producers – then collects money from them that is spent to increase demand through research, education and promotion.

Cows by a fence (photo: Happy Fence Friday, Larry Brown)

Cows by a fence in Cape Girardeau County (photo: Happy Fence Friday, Larry Brown)Mary Fisher of Bates County in western Missouri is one of the producers who wants to see a state checkoff created.”I believe this checkoff is a way we can invest in the future and help with the education in favor for the beef industry for our son, as he is beginning his future on our farm,” said Fisher at the public hearing.

Frank Jones raises cattle in northeast Missouri’s Schuyler County. He said he doesn’t trust the checkoff system.

“It is a corrupt system and I’m thinking if it is allowed to go forward, the vote will be corrupted too, and if allowed to go into place the system will be also corrupt,” said Jones.

The Missouri Beef Industry Council has petitioned for a referendum on the checkoff. If that vote takes place, it would likely be in March with registration beginning in January.

Rhonda Perry raises cattle in central Missouri’s Howard County and heads the Missouri Rural Crisis Center. She doesn’t like that producers must provide three years of sales data to register to vote.

“There are also a number of issues related to the Department of Agriculture in terms of their lack of transparency,” said Perry. “They have declined to hold a public rule making process to get input from producers about what the rules of this referendum process will be.”

Missouri Agriculture Director Richard Fordyce says he hasn’t decided whether to proceed with a referendum, but says he’s going by the book.

“We’ve had multiple discussions at the Department and included the Attorney General’s Office to look at current statute,” said Fordyce. “We have existing statute that’s been around a long time and then some new language that was passed by the General Assembly in this last session. We feel very strongly that we are complying directly with statute.”

If that vote takes place it would likely be in March with registration beginning in January.