The U.S Beef Check-Off Program was started in the nineteen eighties as a producer funded marketing and research program that assesses one-dollar per beef animal at the time the animal is sold.
A dollar collected and used for marketing, research, and education thirty years ago doesn’t go near as far today, and with a smaller cow herd, there simply isn’t as much money being raised.
That’s led to a referendum on whether or not Texas beef producers want to create a Beef Check-Off of their own. Pete Scarmardo is a local rancher and cattle buyer.
“Our beef price now is at record highs. We’ve been able to still maintain these price levels because we’ve done a better job with our exports, and about even marketing our beef here. We’ve not increased the amount of Check-Off money that we’ve had through the last few years. All of our costs of advertising and everything has gone up, so we need to do something to at least try and maintain the same level of advertising.”
Scarmardo also owns an auction barn.
“We’re still collecting a dollar a head and that dollar sure doesn’t go as far for our advertising and our beef promotion now as it did then, and too when you add that we’ve got fewer total cattle numbers, our total dollars that we’ve got to promote our product has kept dropping, so we’ve got to do something to at least just try and stay and maintain the same levels of promotion and beef advertising that we have been.”
For now, the National Beef Check-Off Program is going to continue. The program beef producers are going to be voting on would be used to market Texas beef.
“One of the complaints I hear is that producers say well I don’t see the ads. They’re not the target audience. The target audience are the people who are not beef producers that live in New York City or San Francisco or somewhere there, and that’s where most of the money is spent to promote our product.”
Scarmardo says producers need to focus on the big picture.
“A lot of people here don’t realize what happens to their calves once they’re sold and they lose ownership of them. They’ve got to realize that they are still producing beef and we’re selling beef and what the price of beef does goes back to what they get for that calf, so they’ve got to understand that that’s just part of the cycle, and they’re just starting it and it continues on from there until it’s a steak on a plate.”
Beef producers vote on the Texas Beef Check-Off Program at their local County Extension Offices between June 2nd and June 6th.