If you have been on a Southwest Airlines flight in the last three months, found yourself lacking reading material, and reached into the seat pocket in front of you, you may have noticed articles published in their Spirit magazine that contained negative information about beef (one in Oct. 2009 and another in Nov. 2009).

As you read the original Spirit articles, you may have noticed how they were misleading readers about the environmental implications of raising cattle. What you need to read is that your beef checkoff issues management team continues to work with several researchers in an ongoing effort to better understand the greenhouse gas emissions associated with cattle production. The checkoff, with the “eyes on the ground” help of the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, immediately went to work with university contacts to respond. The resulting letter to the editor was published in the December edition of Spirit and told readers looking for ways to reduce their personal carbon footprint to look at their energy and fossil fuel use, not what they eat.

In her response to the magazine, Jude Capper, Ph.D., assistant professor of dairy sciences, Washington State University, says, “As the population increases, we must identify areas where we can have a meaningful impact on reducing our carbon footprint – like fossil fuel use – rather than vilifying the industries that ensure our population is well-fed and healthy.”

This is just one example among many in the repertoire of responses that your issues management team handles through your checkoff investment.

“The issues management program is (unfortunately) becoming more and more important to beef producers as there seems to be an influx of myths that threaten consumer confidence in beef,” says Mike Stahly, backgrounder and cow/calf producer from Cavour, S.D., and chair of the issues management subcommittee. “This program is designed to protect the image of beef and strengthen the reputation of the entire industry and its producers. It’s vitally important that our checkoff is on the front lines for us while we’re dealing with business at home on our farms and ranches.”

Through checkoff-funded programs and in collaboration with state beef councils, the checkoff gives producers a number of outlets to express their viewpoints, have a voice in the debate, and get involved. Whether you’re most comfortable responding to a blog, writing a letter to the editor, giving a presentation or something else of the like, there’s an avenue for every producer to help secure the future of their industry and tell their own story. If not, someone is likely to tell it for you and you might not like what they say.