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Now That's A Checkoff
— by Lee Pitts

Because it has become a litmus test for its diehard supporters, I am often asked to clarify my position on the beef checkoff. It seems you are either friend or foe; you are either in the fraternity or you are not. But I didn´t quit their club . . . they quit me.

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Gone in a Mushroom Cloud
— by Lee Pitts

Whether you like your beef with or without mushrooms, a recent decision by the Supreme Court is going to leave a decidedly toadstool taste in the collective mouth of the beef industry for a long time. In upholding a previous ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court the Supremes ruled the mushroom checkoff´s advertising program violated the free speech rights of mushroom growers. In doing so it struck down the mushroom checkoff and opened the door to a challenge of the beef and pork checkoffs.

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Showing Their True Colors
— by Lee Pitts

It´s getting downright dirty out there.

On July 5, the judge in the federal district court in South Dakota hearing the Livestock Marketing Assn.´s case dropped a bombshell. You´ll recall the LMA is challenging the validation process used by the USDA to verify the 145,000 signatures gathered up by the LMA for a referendum. After the mushroom decision, the judge in that case, Judge Kornman, in effect said, why should I rule on whether there should be a vote on the checkoff if it is unconstitutional in the first place?

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Backlash
— by Lee Pitts

Prior to the National Cattlemen´s Beef Association summer conference in Reno, they put out a press release announcing a new wrinkle. According to the release the NCBA officers would host an open microphone forum in Reno and be available to respond to member´s questions and receive input on issues. In other words, they decided to let their members voice their own opinions at a meeting. What´s newsworthy is the organization had to put out a press release to let people know they´d have a chance to express their opinions at an NCBA meeting. Lest you think the NCBA has seen the light they also announced that the gripe session would be followed by a panel discussion between NCBA council leaders and representatives from McDonald´s, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Farmland National Beef.

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It´s Almost Over
— by Lee Pitts

What a difference a decade can make!

In 1988 after two earlier defeats, a quarter of a million cattlemen voted to approve a mandatory beef checkoff. Two organizations that worked furiously for the checkoff in those days were the NCA, and the Livestock Marketing Association (LMA). Eleven years later the NCA has transformed itself into the NCBA and has seen the portion of its budget that is derived from checkoff dollars soar to 86%. This despite the fact that of the estimated 1,212,110 cattle producers in the country, less than 40,000 are actually NCBA members.

And the LMA? They are in the final days of a furious effort to gather up 120,000 signatures to have a referendum on the checkoff.

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