According to the Columbia-based Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC), Missouri Director of Agriculture Richard Fordyce has ignored the concerns of hundreds of Missouri cattle producers who oppose a new proposed state beef check-off and a process being promoted by the Missouri Department of Agriculture to implement another beef check-off tax on Missouri producers.
The MRCC said Fordyce approved a petition by the Missouri Beef Industry Council that is trying to establish a new $1 per head state beef check-off.
Missouri cattle producers are already paying over $2 million each year into the federal beef check-off. The MRCC said the proposed state beef check-off would double that amount and force Missouri cattle producers to pay over $4.5 million each year in beef check-off fees.
The MRCC has consistently raised privacy, constitutional and other legal issues with the proposed referendum process, including the fact that previous check-off votes held by the state department of agriculture have not included secret ballots and have forced producers to provide proprietary information in order to be eligible to vote.
“It is unconstitutional to force producers to provide three years of cattle sale numbers just in order to have the right to vote,” said MRCC executive director Roger Allison, a cattle producer from Armstrong. “And no voting process can ever be considered legitimate if it does not include a secret ballot, which these state check-off referendums have not done. The state legislature needs to start over and pass a bill that is constitutional and the Missouri Department of Ag needs to hold the legally required public rulemaking process that includes` input from producers.”
“I am strongly opposed to any new beef check-off and I think the Missouri Department of Ag should stop this attempt to add another tax to cattle producers at a time when cattle prices have dropped 30-percent since the beginning of the year,” said Darvin Bentlage, cattle producer from Golden City. “And Missouri producers are getting $500 less for feeder calves than they were three months ago.”
At a public hearing Dec. 9, the Missouri Department of Agriculture heard from many cattle producers and livestock auction representatives who testified in opposition said they had talked to hundreds of beef producers and nearly all of them oppose the check-off. In less than one month, over 1,000 beef producers have signed petitions opposing the referendum and an increased beef check-off.
The Department of Agriculture refused to hold a public rulemaking process, held only one hearing and did not allow any additional public input or written testimony from the over 50,000 beef producers in the state,” Allison said. “This flawed process that demonstrates a total lack of accountability by the Missouri Department of Agriculture.”
Cattle producers can contact the MRCC at 573-449-1336 for more information about the new proposed beef check-off and the referendum and voting process.
The Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC) is a statewide farm and rural membership organization founded in 1985 with over 5600 member families.
“Our mission is to preserve family farms, promote stewardship of the land and environmental integrity and strive for economic and social justice by building unity and mutual understanding among diverse groups, both rural and urban,” said MRCC director Roger Allison. “We carry out this mission through our programming areas, each with its own specific role in advocating for family farms and rural communities. Our innovative approach to family farm organizing includes challenging corporate control of the food supply, creating sustainable alternatives to the current farm and food system, and generating community participation to create a just, democratic society based on equity and fairness for all people.”
The organization’s web address is https://morural.org/.
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