Iowa's beef producers have agreed to spend an extra 50 cents a head for a state checkoff.
Checkoff programs fund marketing and education for a variety of agricultural products. The state conducted a referendum on Nov. 30 to see whether cattle producers wanted to re-establish a state checkoff.
About 1,700 of the state's nearly 27,000 beef producers voted in the referendum, with 56 percent approving the proposal. Iowa had a state checkoff from 1970-1985, says Chris Freland, executive director of the Iowa Beef Industry Council. When the 1985 farm bill instituted a national beef checkoff, Iowa's was sunset.
Southwest Iowa farmer Seth Watkins is happy the state checkoff passed.
"I just worry that if we don't aggressively promote and take care of our industry and stay current with communicating to farmers what consumers want and vice versa," Watkins says, the Iowa cattle sector will continue to shrink. "If an industry gets too small it’s hard to sustain it."
Watkins is hopeful checkoff dollars will bring together many people and groups working to make cattle grazing a more common part of integrated farming operations. He says funds could also help with distributing meat recipes, providing training to producers on animal welfare best practices, and keeping consumers informed of how their beef is raised.
"I feel like it's an investment," Watkins says. "For me, I felt like we were not spending enough to stay current on what the needs are to stay competitive as an industry."
The state checkoff will be in addition to a one-dollar per head national checkoff that Iowa farmers will continue to contribute. Producers who object to the state checkoff can request reimbursement for the money they pay in.
The new checkoff will begin in March 2017.