Meanwhile... a new final rule starting Sept. 15 will allow U.S. beef importers to pay lower checkoff fees. The checkoff, in addition to the $1/head fee assessed on animals sold in the U.S., also assesses fees on imported beef based on the amount imported and the average weight of cattle carcasses.

The change raises the average weight to 592 lbs., up from 509 lbs. That means the Checkoff program will collect about $1 million less than expected for the rest of 2006, according to Kenneth Payne, USDA chief of marketing programs.
-- Clint Peck