Questions Cattlemen Should Ask About Their Checkoff Dollars



by Kristin Larson, Montana Beef Council President,


BILLINGS, MONTANA – Where do my checkoff dollars go?  Why don’t I see beef advertising anymore?  Who in the world is making those decisions? Have you ever asked questions like these? Ranchers should be aware of how your checkoff dollars are spent. After all, your beef checkoff program is a producer-led program from the state to the national level.


[EasyDNNGallery|3553|Width|350|Height|350|position|left|resizecrop|False|lightbox|False|title|False|description|True|redirection|False|LinkText||]Beef producers joined together over 30 years ago and created the 1986 Beef Promotion and Research Act which established the self-help program that is the national beef checkoff. Every time you sell a beef animal, $1.00 per head is deducted from your sale. In Montana this dollar is remitted to the Montana Beef Council. Fifty cents of the dollar is retained by the state and fifty cents is remitted to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB). The CBB is a national board that oversees the national checkoff and is made up of beef and dairy producers from each state, and importers, appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture. Montana has three members of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and they are Ross Racine, Billings; Leo McDonnell, Columbus; and Lyle Peterson, Custer. Beef checkoff dollars can only be used for promotion, consumer information, industry information, research and producer communications.


The Montana Beef Council makes the decisions of how the fifty cents that stay in Montana are spent. The council is made up of representatives from the Montana Cattlemen’s Association, Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana CattleWomen, Montana Angus Association, Montana Livestock Auction Markets, Montana Farm Bureau Federation, Montana Farmers Union, Montana Cattle Feeders, Montana Dairy Association, Montana Food Distributors Association and the Montana Meat Processors Association.


In addition to their work in their respective states, Montana and forty-two other Qualified State Beef Councils belong to the Federation of State Beef Councils which is housed under the umbrella of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Four Montana Beef Council Board of Directors represent Montana on the Federation. They are myself, Kiley Martinell, Dell; Kathy Creighton-Smith, Chinook; and Linda Swanz, Judith Gap.


On the national level the Beef Promotion Act and Order established a Beef Promotion Operating Committee (BPOC) which contracts with established national non-profit industry governed organizations (Contractors) to carry out the promotion, consumer information, industry information, research and producer communications. The BPOC is made up of ten members from the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and ten members from the Federation of State Beef Councils. This unique format (of state and national representatives) allows projects that are brought to the committee to be viewed at the national program level and the state program level.  


These contractors submit authorization requests to the BPOC each September for the next fiscal year which begins on October 1 of each year. Contractors to the BPOC have included organizations such as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation Foundation, the American National CattleWomen, the North American Meat Institute, the National Livestock Producer’s Association, the Meat Export Federation and the Meat Importers Council of America.


Montana’s Federation and CBB representatives just returned from the Cattle Industry Convention where we participated in our respective committee meetings and gave direction for future authorization requests as they are developed for fiscal year 2017.


Last year was my first year serving on the BPOC and I was just re-elected to serve for another year. For FY 2016 there were approximately $42 million dollars available for disbursement. For perspective, Coca Cola spends about $565 million each year for advertising in the United States.  The BPOC meets in person in Denver for two days each September to review and discuss the requests.  In order to prepare for this meeting, committee members receive a book comprised of the Authorization Requests that is about one and a half inches thick to study in order to make the best decisions about how OUR and YOUR checkoff dollars are spent. This past year, as in most years, the requests add up to more than the dollars available. The twenty committee members spend hours and hours on deciding which projects will do the most to further beef demand. We look at each Authorization Request through the lens of the goals set forth in the beef industry Long Range Plan.  After much discussion in an open meeting, the BPOC makes recommendations for which projects are to be funded.  After approval by the full Cattlemen’s Beef Board and the Secretary of Agriculture, contracts are signed and checkoff program work can begin.


The process and timeline for funding here in Montana is similar and we are almost halfway through our year working with a variety of contractors like the Montana BBQ Cook-off, Montana Beef Quality Assurance, American Heart Association, Montana CattleWomen and many more.


So back to the questions: Where do my checkoff dollars go…the answer ranges from digital advertising to salmonella research to issues management and hundreds of projects in between. Why don’t I see beef advertising anymore…because we (beef producers) are not our target audience unless you happen to be a millennial and 27-34 year old with children! As checkoff decision makers we have identified the older millennial parent as our consumer target because they are large in numbers and have many questions about beef. Who in the world is making these decisions…it is someone just like you! Feel free to call me at (406) 480-5139 or call our staff at the office, (406) 656-3336 for additional information or with any questions.


Kristin Larson currently serves as the Montana Beef Council President, on the Beef Promotion Operating Committee, Co-Chair of the Beef Checkoff Investor Relations Working Group, member of the Global Growth Committee and lives in Sidney with her husband Tim and their four children where they own cattle as well as operate Sidney Livestock Market Center.


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