The program, known formally as the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB), uses the federal government's powers of taxation to collect a mandatory assessment (a tax, essentially) from beef producers. The program is overseen by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). Most of the money is funneled to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA).
Vilsack made the statement at a meeting of the National Farmers Union (NFU). The farm organization listed the following changes that should be made to the checkoff program:
- The CBB must have the authority to carry out checkoff projects on its own, similar to other checkoff oversight boards.
- The CBB must be allowed to enter into checkoff contracts with non-policy organizations and private companies, such as ad agencies and public relations firms, in order to prevent policy-driven organizations from using checkoff dollars to fund overhead for political activity.
- The beef checkoff must be completely refundable.
- A referendum on the continuation of the beef checkoff must occur every five years, and NFU’s board recommended that USDA “consider rewriting the beef checkoff program” under the generic Commodity, Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996.