Remember slogans like “Beef: It’s what’s for dinner!” or “The Incredible Edible Egg!”? Those are brought to you by “checkoff” programs, industry-led marketing and research efforts that are paid for by a mandatory tax that farmers pay. The purpose of these checkoff programs is to increase demand for a commodity, but whether and how those programs actually benefit individual farmers and ranchers is heavily debated.
Right now in Missouri you have an opportunity to protect cattle ranchers from an additional, unnecessary tax on the beef they produce. This new tax would represent a 50% increase in the taxes Missouri ranchers already pay every time they bring their cattle to market!
Here’s what you can do:
- Call your state senator and representative and tell them to oppose Senate Bills 506 and 591 and House Bill 1326 and any bill that contains language to create a new beef tax for cattle producers. Call the capital switchboard at (573) 751-2000 to be connected to your representatives.
- Call Governor Nixon at (573) 751-3222 and ask him to veto any bill that includes a beef checkoff tax.
Already, Missouri cattle ranchers pay more than $2 million each year into a mandatory federal “Beef Checkoff” tax program. Proposed language is making its way into several bills in Missouri to collect an additional 50 cents per head from beef producers for a state checkoff — adding an additional $1 million each year paid for by farmers.
The same forces that stand to benefit from checkoff programs — big meatpackers and pro-industry associations — often support policies that consolidate their power. They’ve also come together to oppose measures, such as Country of Origin Labeling and basic protections for producers under contract, that are designed to help farmers and ranchers.
Similar efforts to increase taxes on farmers are rolling out in other states. A referendum to double a state checkoff program in Minnesota failed a few months ago, while a similar measure passed in Ohio recently.
Farm Aid remains concerned about the secretive nature of these tax hikes, particularly when the very farmers and ranchers affected don’t know they are happening. Through the years, Farm Aid has stood with independent farmers and ranchers who oppose mandatory increases in generally unaccountable checkoff programs.
The big beef industry thought the new tax would go through without a fight, but independent Missouri farmers and ranchers have raised their voices and made good progress in stopping these bills. Now they need you in the last push to prevent new taxes on the beef they produce.
If you’re in Missouri and make a call, please let us know how it goes in the comments.
Photo used by permission. © Patty O’Brien