Today’s beef checkoff program got its start in 1985 when the Beef Promotion Act was passed by Congress. The act established a $1/head assessment on the sale of each bovine animal in the U.S., plus each imported animal or an equivalent on imported product. The purpose was to create a promotion, research and education fund that would help increase demand for beef.

Most who pay into the program know this. What is less well-known is that grassroots producers at the state level not only helped make it possible, but had funded national beef promotion programs for many years prior to 1985, through the Federation of State Beef Councils. That federation will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2013.

I believe the mandatory national checkoff wouldn’t have gotten off the ground if not for efforts at the state level that not only supported the effort, but provided assurances that producers from state councils would have a huge say in how the program was set up and run. It’s why qualified state beef councils (there are 45) collect the $1/head assessment, and are allowed to retain control of half of the funds they collect. About 700 producers who sit on state beef council boards help make decisions about in-state promotions and supplements to national and international demand-building programs.

This decision-making process is another way we assure that ownership of the beef checkoff remains in the hands of producers who pay the dollar. It also increases confidence that the dollars collected will be used for what they were intended – to strengthen demand for beef.

There’s more, though. By law, the federation selects half of the members of the 20-member Beef Promotion Operating Committee (BPOC), which determines which national and international checkoff-funded programs will be funded, and at what amount. The decisions made by this body must be approved by the entire Cattlemen’s Beef Board, which administers the beef checkoff program, along with USDA, which oversees it.

Representatives of the state beef councils sit on committees that help determine which programs are recommended for funding. And, often the programs approved by the BPOC are implemented at the state level by state beef council staffs. Thus, state beef councils are involved in the input, planning and development of beef checkoff programs – and the execution, as well. All these elements are vital in a successful state/national partnership, which is crucial to a successful beef checkoff program.

None of this has happened by accident. Many states had already created their own checkoffs when the federation got its start as the Beef Industry Council (BIC), a division of the National Livestock and Meat Board (NLMB), in 1963. Their councils, some formed in the 1950s, reflected the type of beef production in their state, and could focus on the specific needs of beef promotion their citizens required.

When NLMB and the National Cattlemen’s Association merged to form the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in 1996, BIC became a division of NCBA. And that’s where it resides today.

Surveys show that more than 70% of producers consistently support the checkoff, and I believe grassroots involvement by producers through their state beef councils is one of the reasons why. The federation is proud to support beef council interests at the national level, and is excited about celebrating its 50th anniversary. Furthermore, we continue to find ways of maximizing the role of state councils in their tradition of service to this country’s producers, finding even more ways to increase consumer demand for beef.

Craig Uden is a beef producer from Elwood, NE, and serves as chairman of the Federation of State Beef Councils.