Checkoff shows signs of continued use as a political football.
Here in Colorado, producers are solidly committed to the checkoff, but we were equally disenchanted with the fiasco that occurred last year relative to all the political hijinks. Colorado producers wanted to play a positive role in making sure that the selection process wasn’t subverted again, and board members would have the best interest of the industry and the checkoff at heart.
So we talked about the nominating process that seemed to be the cause of the majority of the problems the checkoff had needlessly endured. And we were assured that if we didn’t nominate old white guys, that our voice would be heard.
So all the major groups caucused, we agreed to support two candidates, and one was even a female of Native American heritage, certainly not an old white man. When the results were announced, a semi-old white man who is part of the Humane Society of the U.S.’s (HSUS) newly created Ag Advisory Council was the appointment.
It almost seems that if one is nominated by the vast majority of producers, or you actually make your living from the cattle industry, that those are criteria against appointment. There seems to be a concerted effort to ensure that those committed to the destruction of the checkoff, and opposed to mainstream industry practices and views, are represented.
I think everyone was hopeful that the quagmire we endured last year over the political gamesmanship with the national checkoff was a short-term, once-in-a-lifetime issue. The checkoff and industry leadership had been working together, and as always the checkoff was doing great things to build demand. This shouldn’t be an issue, as building beef demand is something cattlemen can all agree on.
Admittedly, that is contrary to the wishes of groups like HSUS, but we will soon be in a similar position as before, where those opposed and committed to destroying the checkoff and the mainstream industry are once again in charge of the checkoff.
Here in Colorado, there are already serious discussions about what went so fundamentally wrong in the process. Perhaps there’s a solution, but the industry thought it was acting to eliminate what happened. The sad reality is that the checkoff has become as political as Washington, D.C.; and if the mainstream industry continues to be shut out of the process, we will have to consider if there isn’t a better way to build beef demand than with a highly politicized government program.
The checkoff shouldn’t need to spend precious political capital expenditures on behalf of the industry to make sure we aren’t attacked from within. Diversity is a good thing, but the overwhelming majority should also have a seat at the table.