OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma ranchers are pushing back against a proposal to double the fee or “Beef Checkoff” they must pay when they sell their cattle.
Right now, there’s a federal mandate that requires farmers to pay $1 for every cow sold. Half of that goes to the Oklahoma Beef Council (OBC), the other half to the national Cattlemen’s Beef Board.
If the proposal passes a November 1 vote, another dollar would be added to the Beef Checkoff. All of the revenue from the addition would go to the OBC for education and promotion of beef products.
“There have been 15 other states that have initiated their own state program,” said the executive director of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, Michael Kelsey. “Oklahoma is just following suit.”
But some ranchers say they don’t care about more ads.
“I’m not going to get excited about it, I can’t imagine anyone getting excited about it,” said rancher John Johnson.
Johnson said the real problem is internationally imported beef making it impossible for American cattle ranchers to make a living.
“It doesn’t really matter how much Sam Elliott says, ‘Beef. It’s what’s for dinner,'” Johnson said. “I love hearing it but we need them to start getting better trade deals instead of inundating us with cheap beef.”
Johnson argued the burden is left on producers alone.
“The feedlots, they’re not paying any of it. The packers, they’re not paying any of it, and I don’t feel like I should have to advertise for Arby’s, and for Applebee’s, and for Safeway, and for all those people,” Johnson said.
Meanwhile, others are still concerned about the more than $2.6 million former Oklahoma Beef Council bookkeeper Melissa Morton embezzled from 2009 to 2016.
It’s a crime she has not served any time for.
“The beef council has instituted some very robust and vigorous accounting processes that will ensure the embezzlement process will never happen again,” Kelsey said.
As for the Beef Checkoff, Kelsey argues farmers can always opt out and get a refund if the proposed fee passes.
“You don’t have to provide a reason,” Kelsey said. “You can ask for a refund and the total assessment, at no cost to you, will be refunded.”
But Johnson insists, it’s not to their benefit at all.
“It doesn’t really matter if they’re Democrat or Republican, farmer doesn’t have any friends,” he said. “They just want a cheap source of food and a plentiful supply.”