March 30, 2015

Seven National Organizations Sign Beef Checkoff Memorandum

red meatSeven national organizations that are members of the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group – including the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and National Milk Producers Federation – reached an agreement Friday on how to proceed with a campaign to increase the checkoff from one-dollar per head to two-dollars per head – according to sources. The group has been working to reach an agreement that would have support to ask Congress for an increase in the checkoff – but the main dispute has been the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s role in managing the checkoff and how much assistance the checkoff provides small producers versus large producers. The group will continue working to develop a road map for simultaneously recommending and advocating for the outcomes highlighted in the revised Memorandum of Understanding.

The National Farmers Union, one of the groups who will not sign the memorandum, says the MOU is a waste of everyone’s time because it will fail to achieve the real reforms that need to be made. NFU President Roger Johnson says the MOU also proposes a refundable increase in the assessment of one-dollar and allows for national lobbying organizations that are major recipients of checkoff dollars to be on the nominating committee for the Beef Promotion Operating Committee – which he says creates a clear conflict of interest for the checkoff. Johnson says NFU’s vision for the checkoff would ensure control of the program is held by producers actively involved in production agriculture, exclusively promote domestic product, exclude processors from leadership positions and financial responsibility and review referendums executed by USDA every five-years.

The United States Cattlemen’s Association also abstained from signing the MOU. USCA Past President Jon Wooster says USCA is committed to seeing meaningful checkoff reform through to fruition. USCA leadership would like to continue to be a part of the process and will remain active on the issue – Wooster says – and pursue any effort to bring unbiased and open-minded individuals to the table to discuss substantial enhancements to the checkoff program. Unfortunately – he says the MOU fell far short of USCA’s expectations in the form of structural changes that would warrant USCA’s support for an increase in the assessment.


Obama To Intervene In West Coast Port Disputes

Various sources this morning are reporting that President Obama will intervene in the ongoing west coast labor dispute following months of negotiations between the ports and the International Longshore and Warehousing Union.  The White House is intervening as the work slowdown has hurt both the import and export of various goods through the major ports and is causing severe economic stress in certain industries.  The Port of Oakland alone is reporting 18 ships currently anchored in the bay as of Friday, with no unloads scheduled until today.

The Pacific Maritime association has accused the ILWU, which represents around 20,000 dockworkers and operators of purposely slowing operations.  Specifically, the PMA says the union has short staffed the cranes needed to unload cargo off the ships, although ILWU denies this.   The union says it needs to properly train the operators on safety procedures.

Exactly how the president will intervene remains to be seen.  We will update this story accordingly throughout the day




West Coast Ports Shut Down

Media reports indicate that West Coast ports will be mostly closed the next few days because of on an ongoing labor dispute.

Employers at West Coast shipping ports said Wednesday they were suspending operations due to the continuing impasse with the union that is representing dockworkers.

The Pacific Maritime Association said it will halt loading and unloading at the ports on Thursday. The closures will continue through Monday at many locations.

The topic of port slowdowns came up during a House Agriculture Committee hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday, when U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was asked what the Administration was willing to do about the situation.

California 16th District Congressman Jim Costas – and the Secretary’s reaction.


International Longshore and Warehouse Union officials said they were surprised by the shutdown because early last week the two sides appeared close to reaching an agreement.

South Dakota Republican John Thune expressed concern with reporters on Wednesday that meat in freezers at the West Coast waiting for shipment to the Far East and elsewhere could instead be pushed back into the U.S. domestic market – potentially pressuring livestock prices.  Thune said the slowdowns are costing the meat industry financial losses to the tune of $40 million a week.