WASHINGTON (FNS) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture-mandated program promoting beef consumption is under fire from a corner of the cattle industry that wants to stop paying for it.
The Livestock Marketing Association, which represents about one million small cattle producers and feeders, plans to call for an industrywide referendum to end the program, created by Congress.
Producers are required by law to pay $1 per cow into the fund, which has generated about $1 billion in the 10 years the program has been in existence. The money goes toward advertising, education and research.
The faction seeking an end to the assessment that funds the program claims that the beef market is shrinking, and that it's becoming too much of a burden for small players in the industry.
In a statement, William E. Irons Jr., LMA president, asked, "With continued erosion of demand for beef and beef products, how much longer can the industry afford to go in this direction?"
The Kansas City, Mo.-based group argues that the check-off marketing program, as it's currently structured, is too much under the control of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, here, which the LMA says is focusing much of its funds on retailer and packer beef-promotion projects that benefit producer/packer alliances.
Such alliances, the LMA says, are being promoted by the nation's four largest beef packers, which, in turn, is leading toward consolidation and an erosion of competition within the cattle industry.
Generic marketing programs funded by industry product assessments are a common feature for many commodities, and are designed to promote and regulate the market for these products.
In order to kill a program, however, an industry needs to submit to the USDA a petition carrying signatures from 10% of the program's participants. The LMA will need 120,000 signatures.
For its part, the NCBA said it considers calls for repeal of the marketing program unfounded.
"We're working as an organization to be accessible to every cattle producer, knowing that, in an industry as diverse as ours, we will seldom produce unanimous agreement," said Clark Willingham, NCBA president, in a statement.