Are you doin’ your part to keep consumers lovin’ beef?

When you sell your calves at the local auction market, you pay your $1-per-head beef checkoff to invest in maintaining strong demand for your product. But, did you know that when you harvest an animal and sell the beef through a farmers market, online, or to your friends and neighbors, you also need to pay your share of the checkoff, too?

Yep, that’s right. Every cattle producer or importer of beef and beef products is required to pay the $1-per-head or equivalent beef checkoff assessment every time a beef or dairy animal changes hands.

You might be most familiar with the “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.” advertising campaign, because that’s probably the most visible checkoff program, but the return on your $1-per-head also comes through things like the checkoff’s promotion of the benefits of beef in a healthy diet; discovery of ways to keep the U.S. beef supply safe; development of more than 3,000 new beef products since 1998; and consumer education about beef and the beef industry, including things like BSE, as well as research and education about management practices that keep your animals healthy, to name just a few.

Here’s a quick review of what the checkoff is and what your associated role and responsibilities are:

·         The national Beef Checkoff Program was authorized with congressional passage of Beef Promotion and Research Act and Order, as part of the 1985 Farm Bill, requiring collection of $1-per-head every time cattle change ownership. After an 18-month “test run” of the program, beef producers voted 79 percent in favor of making the program mandatory, via a producer referendum in 1988.

·         The checkoff is due on all cattle sales, regardless of the age, breed, or purpose of the animal. Typically, the person or business paying you for your cattle is responsible for collecting the $1-per-head beef checkoff assessment — these collecting persons or points include livestock markets, order buyers and packers. You might, however, be the designated collecting person when you buy or sell cattle through private-treaty transactions. Both the buyer and seller are responsible for making sure that the beef checkoff is properly reported and remitted, so it’s important that both parties are clear about who is making the payment.  All assessments are due by the 15th of the month following the month of the sale.

·         The checkoff also is collected when you harvest the cattle that you have raised with the intent of selling the meat to consumers (whether directly to another individual, through farmers markets, or via wholesale or retail).

·         Producers, livestock markets, dealers and packers report and pay beef checkoff assessments to your state beef council. One-half of each dollar you invest is used to promote beef right there in your state.

Whether you market your cattle as live animals or as freezer beef, be sure to invest your fair share into the future of your industry. Your $1-per-head investment can make a big difference in helping build beef demand, and the return filters back to you.

Auction-market owners are not considered “beef producers,” but they most certainly play a critical role in the checkoff, serving as collection points for $1-per-head beef checkoff assessments accrued through their businesses. The efforts of these markets are vital to checkoff investments aimed at building demand for beef and beef products.

In the end, the “payment” for those collection services is much the same as the return on investment for the producers and importers who actually invest their dollars into the program. Beef checkoff programs help maintain strong demand for beef and beef products, a benefit that extends to all segments of the beef chain, including those who participate as collection points for the checkoff.

You’ve heard it repeated in reference to our general economy through the years, by way of the optimistic utterance made famous by John F. Kennedy: “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Likewise, if demand for beef producers’ products is higher, then there presumably will be more business — and more lucrative business — in buying and selling cattle.

To learn more about your Beef Checkoff Program, visit

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