The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service is seeking input from the public to guide its development of a new industry-funded promotion, research and information order (also known as a "checkoff program") for beef and beef products. The new order would be in addition to the existing beef checkoff program, providing American beef producers with more resources for the marketing of their products and research to help strengthen the country's beef industry.

"Beef industry representatives agree that this important program needs more resources. USDA is stepping up at a critical juncture to help achieve the industry's goal," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "With this action we can boost research investments, increase beef exports, and encourage folks here at home to support American beef producers."

Beef industry leaders agree that the current fee of $1 per-head-of-cattle per producer is too little. The $1 assessment has remained the same since 1985 when Congress first created the beef checkoff program, and the amount can only be changed through Congressional action. This assessment provides resources for marketing to promote beef sales, research, and many other benefits for producers. An additional supplemental program like the one USDA is proposing would enhance available resources, which would help the beef industry address important issues including improving and enhancing nutritional and consumer information through initiatives such as consumer advertising, education, research and new-product development.

Additional resources could help increase demand for beef both domestically and internationally, thus benefitting cattle producers and the domestic beef industry. USDA is acting to help beef producers continue to enjoy these benefits—and strengthen them—in a way that works for all producers.

Interested individuals and organizations are invited to provide their views concerning provisions that would be included in the new order. A referendum on an order established under the 1996 Act would be conducted within three years after assessments begin to determine whether beef producers favor the program and if it should continue. A second referendum would be held within seven years of the start of the program.

Interested parties have until Dec.10, 2014, to submit comments on any of the issues below, and comments should reference the appropriate heading:

1. Who should be assessed?

2. What should be the board structure?

  • Who is eligible to serve?
  • Should there be a relatively large delegate body appointed by the Secretary that would elect and recommend from within itself a smaller board?
  • What should be the size of the board?
  • What should be the term of office?

3. How should the board be selected?

  • Who may nominate eligible candidates to serve?
  • What should be the nomination and selection process?

4. What should be the powers and duties of the board?

5. Who has decision-making authority?

  • Should funding decisions be made by the full board or a smaller body elected from within this board?
  • Should funding decisions be made in conjunction with other organizations such as the Federation of State Beef Councils or the current Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board?

6. How should the assessment rate be determined?

  • Should the assessment be a specified amount, a percent of value, or an amount determined by board?
  • If a specified amount or a percent of value, should there be provisions for adjustments to the rate by the board, and without subsequent producer referendum?
  • Should there be a de minimis exemption for certain size operations or classes of cattle or beef?
  • Should there be temporary or permanent provisions for refunds of assessments?

7. How should assessments be collected?

  • Should the States or the national board collect the assessment?
  • Should be assessment be levied at all points of sale, at slaughter, or at some other time?

8. When should the referenda be conducted?

USDA will consider written comments in developing its proposal for a Beef Promotion, Research and Information Order that provides for a promotion, research, and information program for beef and beef products under the 1996 Act. The new program would operate concurrently with the Beef Checkoff Program authorized under the authority of the 1985 Act.

Details of the notice of inquiry will appear in the Nov. 10, 2014, Federal Register. Comments may be submitted online at www.regulations.gov.

In September, Secretary Vilsack announced his intentions to increase USDA's involvement to support beef producers and help ensure that the beef checkoff program can move forward with broad-based producer organization support. The new order would be developed under the Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information Act of 1996. The proposed program would be in addition to the existing beef promotion and research program established under the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985.