Group aims to increase membership to 28,000 to improve lobbying efforts
By TIM HEARDEN
The nation's largest cattle organization wants to beef up its membership to boost the clout of feeders, packers and cow-calf producers in Washington, D.C.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association has kicked off a campaign with the goal of increasing its membership from the current 24,356 to 28,000 by Sept. 30, 2013, said Kate Maher, the organization's director of member services in Denver.
The push will help ranchers as Congress in the coming year is expected to address many issues that affect the cattle industry, including the farm bill, the estate tax and environmental regulations, the NCBA asserted in a news release.
"As our staff in D.C. works the halls of Congress saying they represent so many cattlemen and cattlewomen across the country, we want the numbers to back that up," Maher told the Capital Press. "More members means more clout for us and ... a positive outcome for our producers to continue to operate and feed families around the world."
As part of the drive, the NCBA is working with New Holland to provide state affiliates that add the most members with the use of a baler or tractor, with an opportunity to lease it or purchase it after one year.
The NCBA's membership dues start at $100 and vary depending on the size of the operation. For instance, a cow-calf producer with 4,000 head would be charged $750 to join, according to the organization's website.
The drive comes as NCBA has been under increasing fire from critics -- including the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America -- which have urged the federal government to strip NCBA of Beef Checkoff funds.
The critics' concerns stem from a 2010 audit that found the NCBA billed as checkoff expenses consulting fees related to the organization's policy division and other items the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board found objectionable.
Under a 1985 law, fees from the checkoff -- a $1 assessment on each head of cattle sold -- must be used strictly for research and promotion but not for advocacy.
Maher said the membership drive has nothing to do with preserving the NCBA's role in administering checkoff programs, noting that it's members' dues that support the organization's political activities.
"While we know there are groups that are trying to question the checkoff, we don't work in that arena," she said. "Membership is solely about policies."
The NCBA is putting a renewed focus on membership now that the division is fully staffed, Maher said. She is one of four people on the membership staff who work under a marketing director's supervision.
For more information about membership and recruitment incentives, call 866- 233-3872.
National Cattlemen's Beef Association: http://www.beefusa.org/