Beef farmers hear how check-off dollars are spent

Nicholas Donaldson

Local producers now should know a bit more about how their check-off dollars are spent.
Detailed information came at the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association’s town hall-style meeting at the Millennium Hall in Stratton last Wednesday evening from Melinda German, general manager of the Canadian Beef Check-off Agency.
For those who may not know, cattle farmers pay a compulsory check-off per head whenever they sell cattle.
The amount varies from province to province but for Ontario farmers, the check-off is currently $4, with $3 going to the Beef Farmers of Ontario to fund programs and activities, as well as maintain daily operations.
The remaining $1 is a mandatory national levy collected to fund research and marketing for the entire Canadian beef industry.
German explained the goal of the national check-off is to increase beef demand both domestically and internationally, and improve production methods for beef and beef cattle.
She noted she only manages the funds as directed; she does not decide herself where the money goes.
“These are producer dollars and producers make the decision on where the dollars go,” German stressed.
The 2016-17 allocation consisted of 64 percent towards marketing, 19 percent towards provincial investment, and 18 percent for research.
This information comes at the same time as producers get ready for the proposed hike of the national check-off from $1 to $2.50 sometime in 2018.
The plan is to build on the success of the program and increase those benefits.
German walked through the 2016 report on the impact of check-off dollars which showed that, on average between 2011 and 2014, every dollar invested resulted in a benefit cost ratio of 14:1 for producers.
“The great return shows we are under-investing in marketing and research,” German said.
She also noted Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island already have increased their national check-off to $2.50.
“The agency isn’t the one saying we should increase the check-off; these are provincial decisions made by producers,” German reiterated.
German urged everyone to sign up for “Gatepost,” a monthly online newsletter that explains how check-off dollars are being used.
Tom Lynch-Staunton, issues manager for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, also made a presentation at last Wednesday’s meeting that concerned check-off dollars.
He spoke about his role responding to consumer concerns and building public trust, which is funded by check-off dollars.
“We just want to convince consumers that we are not so bad, we care about animal welfare, and that they should choose beef over other proteins,” Lynch-Staunton explained.
One recent issue that caused a stir was an article in the Sept. 18 edition of the National Post on renowned Hollywood director James Cameron’s purchase of an organic pea-processing plant in Saskatchewan.
It also included his message to stop eating beef.
Lynch-Staunton explained how his office formulated the response to say they were very happy with Cameron’s decision to support plant agriculture in Saskatchewan but did not like his message attacking the beef industry.
They also tried to clear up a few misconceptions, as well as give readers a better idea of the beef industry, despite the restricted word count they were allowed.
Lynch-Staunton said being delegated to respond to these sorts of things saves a lot of time and effort for other organizations that otherwise would feel they need to act, ensuring the check-off dollars are used efficiently.
About 100 guests attended the meeting and were treated to a free roast beef dinner courtesy of Farm Credit Canada, which sponsored the event.
They also were able to talk to a handful of CCA and BFO officials about issues at the local, national, and international levels of beef production.
Other presenters at the town hall meeting included:
•John Masswohl, director of Government and International Relations, speaking on NAFTA, CETA, the TPP, and the recent proposed tax changes;
•Dr. Reynold Bergen, science director of the Beef Cattle Research Council, on the research they do and information available;
•Brian Perillat from Canfax on market trends and predictions;
•Ron Glaser, vice-president of Canada Beef, on marketing initiatives and partnerships with businesses such as Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, and Boston Pizza; and
•Emily Ritchie, youth leadership co-ordinator, on various programs and opportunities for young farmers.