Leaders say resources are needed to modernize public education efforts.
Michigan Beef Industry Commission (MBIC) Executive Director George Quackenbush has seen a lot of change in the landscape during his 18 years representing Michigan cattle producers.
From farming techniques to technological changes in how the public gets information to rising pressure from anti-beef groups around the state and nation, very little of the landscape looks familiar since the day he went to work for Michigan’s beef producers back in 2005.
What hasn’t changed is the revenue this group uses to serve as the face and voice of Michigan beef producers. The MBIC retains half of $1 per-head on cattle when they are sold, a federal checkoff program instituted in 1985. Quackenbush and the producer leaders serving on the Michigan Beef Industry Commission say that needs to change.
“The world around us has changed,” Quackenbush said. “Cattle producers responsibly use resources and technology to do their jobs more effectively, more humanely and more sustainably than ever before. But the public is skeptical, pressure from outside groups is at an all-time high, and the need for us to reach our consumers has never been more important.”
In recent years, producer organizations have recommended MBIC re-start a state check-off that existed before the national program was established in 1985.
“It is critical that we expand our educational programs,” says MBIC Chairman Monte Bordner. “Our work to inform pediatricians, cardiologists, and others in the health community about the benefits of nutrient-dense beef in a healthy diet has been exceptionally well received. We are now poised to launch an initiative focusing on fitness, promoting beef’s role in strength building and athletic performance. This is about growing consumer trust in our product, increasing beef’s visibility, and creating opportunities for future generations in our industry.”
Checkoff programs are a tool commonly used by agricultural commodities to help support their producers. Eighteen states have developed beef checkoff programs in addition to the federal beef checkoff. Michigan beef leaders say the state program will also help ensure that money collected on Michigan cattle goes to directly support and create opportunities for Michigan’s cattle producers.
“We’re working hard to get the word out to producers around the state about this proposal to re-start our state checkoff, why it’s needed now and what it will mean for their futures,” Quackenbush said. “This is a turning point for our industry in Michigan. Our ability to do the job beef producers expect requires adequate resources, and this proposal will allow us to deliver effectively on their behalf.”
The Commission is expected to review and decide this proposal at its July 20th board meeting. Listening sessions are being scheduled where the Commission will receive public input.