Federation of State Beef Councils, Audio with Jennifer Houston, Federation Vice Chair
A modified beef checkoff joint committee structure in 2013 that more closely reflects the industry’s Long Range Plan is starting to pay some dividends for the Beef Checkoff Program. So says Jennifer Houston, vice chair of the Federation of State Beef Councils. According to Houston, improvements were on display last week during the 2014 Cattle Industry Summer Conference, where committees and subcommittees deliberated on potential checkoff programs. She says committee members now have a better handle on the checkoff program review process.
“We found that our producers needed more tools in order to make their decisions. So this year, we gave them more tools; we gave them a scoring system to really look at these proposals and give their input and give their comments, which will then be sent on to the Operating Committee, who will ultimately make the monetary decisions. There was a lot of great dialogue, a lot of questions being asked, which gives the presenters a chance to fix things, if they see a problem with it, or based upon the input from our producers, if they hear a problem with it. (28 seconds)
Houston says the Beef Promotion Operating Committee, made up of representatives of both the Beef Board and the Federation, will be the next step for projects reviewed by the joint committees last week.
“They’re all good projects, but we only have a limited amount of money. Our dollar doesn’t buy as much as it did when the checkoff was passed. And each year, with the cattle numbers the lowest they’ve been since 1952, there are some really hard decisions. But this committee structure and this evaluation, or feedback, mechanism that we’ve come up with, I think is really going to help the Operating Committee with the information they need to make the cuts, or make the hard decisions, about which of the good projects give us the most bang for our checkoff dollars. (28 seconds)
Houston and her husband operate a livestock market in Sweetwater, Tennessee. She says these advisory committees reflect the state and national partnership.
“These joint committees are made up of Beef Board members as well as Federation members, which really take in both sides of the dollar. We also have the state execs, who serve in an advisory role. We get to hear how the plan will work in their state; how it will roll out to the consumer level. So it’s very valuable to have both sides of the dollar come together to make these decisions, just like we do at the Operating Committee.” (20 seconds)
According to Houston, changes to the process are increasing the involvement of the grassroots producers putting their money into the Beef Checkoff Program.
“I think this is one meeting that no one will go home and say, ‘my voice wasn’t needed; why did I come.’ If you were in a checkoff committee today, your voice was heard, you knew that it was going on to the Operating Committee. It’s also going back to the contractors, so that they have time to make changes based on their input. So I think that we’ll get great feedback, and that everybody here will feel that they did something for the industry, and everybody’s here doing it for the good of the industry.” (27 seconds)
The Federation of State Beef Councils is a division of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which is a contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program. Every beef farmer and rancher and every beef importer contributes to a fund called the beef checkoff. Projects conducted by the beef checkoff must be approved by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.