Beef check off assessment hike OK'd by the majority

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

Fifty six percent of Tennessee cattle and dairy farmers participating in a state referendum this month voted to increase the $1-per-head assessment to $1.50 to raise money for research, education, market development and promotional activities.

Perhaps the most widely-known part of the check-off program operated by the Tennessee Beef Promotion Board is the advertising campaign including the slogan proclaiming, "Beef: It's what's for dinner." The assessment is to be collected when a bovine changes hands.

Research funded by the assessment has increased production by reducing the effects of injecting medicine, according to County Commissioner Nathan Johnson, a cattle producer who spoke about the program with University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Agent Rick Skillington.

"Statewide, there were 1,275 votes cast with 718 for it," Skillington reported last week. "The referendum passed by about 56 percent.

"That's an extremely poor turn out when the Tennessee Department of Agriculture estimates the number of cattle producers at about 47,000 statewide," the agricultural extension agent said. "Twenty nine votes were cast here" in Marshall County.

The increased assessment "will go into effect sometime this next spring," Skillington said.

Dairy and cattle farmers have been paying the $1 check off fee for so long that inflation has reduced its spending power to about 40 cents, state officials said.

In a few months, every time a bull, cow or calf is sold, a $1.50 assessment is to be paid.

"I think it will have very little effect on the price (of beef) at the consumer level," Skillington said. "If you're talking about a $900 calf and adding 50 cents to it, that's not much to be passed on to the consumer.

"It will put some money out there for promotion," the extension agent said.