Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the Federation of State Beef Councils (FSBC) has a proud history. And as the beef industry plans for future industry-funded programs, it’s a history worth studying.

At the heart of the effort have been state beef councils – in my opinion, the best possible marriage of accomplishment and grassroots participation. Collectively through the FSBC, these state beef councils have given national programs a true producer-directed nucleus and direct accountability to the producers paying into the programs.

 State beef councils began appearing in the mid-1950s. Soon thereafter, the National Beef Council was formed to move forward a national effort for beef promotion. When that organization was absorbed into the National Live Stock and Meat Board to form the Beef Industry Council in 1963, the country’s first truly cooperative state/national beef marketing program was established.

A little more than 20 years later, state beef councils became a critical element in the development of a mandatory $1/head national beef checkoff program. They saw the value of combining their efforts to maximize both efficiency and power. When the new program began in 1986, these groups not only served as collection managers, but sat at the decision-making table as well.

Today more than 700 industry leaders serve on boards of 45 Qualified State Beef Councils directing state-based efforts, and more than 100 serve as directors for FSBC. FSBC and the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) each elect 10 representatives to sit on the Beef Promotion Operating Committee, which helps direct funding of national and international beef checkoff program-funded efforts.

Furthermore, producer representatives on state beef councils serve on committees with CBB representatives that provide direction for beef checkoff program projects. These efforts are managed by beef producer organizations and overseen by both the CBB and USDA.

Among the FSBC’s current state/national system features are:

  • It’s producer-directed. Producers in 45 states have a hand in this effort.
     
  • It encourages producer access. Participation in the industry at a local or state level makes sense. Those who get involved at the state level have an influence in national discussions.
     
  • It assures accountability. Regardless of organization, producer leaders at the state and national levels hold their hired hands accountable, and are in turn held accountable for their oversight and direction.
     
  • It’s inclusive. While states with the most beef production have a significant voice at the national level, they don’t operate the controls. Everyone has a voice and – true to a cattleman’s sense of fairness – there’s always serious deliberation.
     
  • It’s flexible. FSBC allows for changes as needed to address consumer demand issues.
     
  • Its idea pool is deep. Because so many producers are involved, a wide variety of possible solutions to industry issues is evaluated.
     
  • It strikes a balance between state and national interests. A national program is important, but in surveys producers have stated they don’t want a system dictated from above. The Federation system, which relies on state representatives to provide both input and direction, strikes a proper state/national balance.
     
  • It’s time-tested. Over its 50-year history, FSBC has taken the steps producers requested to keep things on track.

A decreasing cattle herd and greater competition will require that industry leaders work hard in the future to assure a checkoff program is flexible while remaining producer-directed, inclusive and successful. Thanks to the foresight of beef producer leaders who developed state checkoffs, created an FSBCto combine their forces, and helped establish a national beef checkoff program, we’re poised to build on history. Together, we’re a formidable state and national team.

Richard Gebhart, Claremore, OK, is chairman of the Federation of State Beef Councils.

 

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