The Livestock Marketing Association (LMA) is asking for a constitutional ruling on the mandatory beef checkoff. Having failed in its attempt to mount a successful producer referendum, LMA has amended its earlier complaint to ask for a ruling of constitutionality on the $1 mandatory beef checkoff. The program has withstood two previous court challenges.

LMA, eight individual producers and the Western Organization of Resource Councils took the move in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding the mushroom industry's checkoff. In that ruling, the court ruled that the mandatory checkoff violated First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association.

LMA's original complaint was to force a national producer referendum on the checkoff after the LMA-led effort had failed to gather the number of producer signatures required for the U.S. secretary of agriculture to call for a referendum.

Help against eco-terrorists may be on the way. A bill introduced in Congress would beef up law enforcement's tools and the penalties for domestic terrorism against agriculture and research.

The Agro Terrorism Act of 2001 would increase protections currently extended to plant research facilities to include animal research facilities. It would also give the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) new tools to pursue criminal conspiracies against animal and plant terrorism.

Under the bill, penalties will increase and the economic damage threshold for federal action will be reduced. In addition, the bill would set up a national clearinghouse at the FBI to help law enforcement agencies gather and exchange information on animal and eco-terrorists nationwide.

The voluntary system will utilize electronic ID tags that will remain with the animal until harvest. That's the recommendation in draft standards for a national ID program approved during the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) summer conference. Data would be gathered at each change of ownership and transferred according to terms of trade between buyer and seller. Work is continuing on the standards with final presentation expected at the 2002 NCBA convention.

A total of 43% of U.S. farms now have Internet access, the USDA reports. That's up from just 29% two years ago. The West is the nation's leading region for Internet capability with 54%, followed by the Northeast at 48%, the North Central states with 44% and the South with 37%.

The Beef Board earmarked $45 million in checkoff funds to build beef demand in fiscal 2002. Wishing to build on the increase in beef demand recorded in 10 of the 12 past quarters, the Beef Board allocated $24 million for promotion, $5 million for research, $5.5 million for consumer information, $2 million for industry information, $4.5 million for foreign marketing, $1.5 million for producer communications, $150,000 for evaluation, $120,000 for program development and $2.5 million for administration and USDA oversight.

Beef demand increased five percentage points the second quarter of 2001, as compared to the second quarter of 2000. According to Cattle-Fax, the increase in demand the last few years has added $100/head to the price of fed cattle and $16-$18/cwt. to the price of a 500-lb. steer.

Steer calf and feeder cattle prices averaged all-time record highs in 2000. Those average prices were $109.12/cwt. and $91.91/cwt., respectively, says Cattle-Fax. Meanwhile, fed cattle averaged $69.65/cwt., the highest annual price in seven years. Monthly prices for steer calves have ranged above $100/cwt. since November of 1999.

Meanwhile, consumer spending on beef in 2001 is forecast at $55.3 billion. That's up almost $2.5 billion from the record posted in 2000.

If you're interested in guest recreation on your operation, you now have a Web resource. The site www.uwyo.edu/ranchrecr features resources and information in all 50 states and is designed to be a clearinghouse for information and advice on setting up and running such enterprises. It's also a nationwide meeting place for folks who are involved in rural vacations on the farm or ranch.

Don't forget the Oct. 1 entry deadline for the “IRM Tips For Profit” contest. The top prize is $3,500 cash and a trip to the 2002 Cattle Industry Annual Convention in February. Second and third prizes are $1,500 and $1,000, respectively. In addition, up to 10 honorable mentions also will be awarded.

The contest seeks to find the most innovative and successful management ideas and inventions that producers have implemented on their operations. BEEF is proud to be a second-year partner in this contest sponsored by the Pennington Seed Co. and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

For contest rules, refer to the summer issue of IRM News, the quarterly Integrated Resource Management newsletter. It was included in your August issue of BEEF. Or, you can contact Renee Lloyd at 303/850-3373 or rlloyd@ beef.org.

Five Largest Retailers Control 41% Of Food Sales

Rank Company No. of stores Sales % Market share
supermarkets
% Market share
all food stores
1 Kroger Co. 3,127 $49.1 12.8% 9.9%
2 Albertson's 2,514 $37.9 9.6% 7.5%
3 Safeway 1,689 $32.0 8.3% 6.5%
4 Ahold USA 1,229 $22.0 5.7% 4.5%
5 Costco 335 $17.7 4.6% 3.6%
Source: Dairy-Deli-Bake Digest

This monthly column is compiled by Joe Roybal, 952/851-4669 or e-mail jroybal@primediabusiness.com.