In fact, since beef demand halted its slide in 1998, demand for beef has increased by 15.4%.

When the beef industry set its long-range-plan goal of increasing beef demand by 6% by the end of 2004, most thought it was a pipe dream. But, here we are at the start of 2004 and that goal has not only been accomplished a year ahead of schedule, but exceeded.

That record of achievement begs the following question: With the widespread support among producers for the checkoff, and in the wake of all of the checkoff's recent successes in spurring beef demand, ensuring consumer confidence, conveying our nutritional message, and helping develop new cuts and convenience-oriented products, will producers hold those who took away producers' ability to decide the checkoff by challenging it in the court system accountable?

BSE illustrates that the industry can't rest on its laurels. But, it's difficult to imagine anything close to as extensive and effective of an industry response to the BSE crisis without the tremendous job done by our state and national beef checkoff groups.