California beef and dairy producers have voted to establish and fund the new California Cattle Council to provide more resources to defend and promote cattle production in the state.
The effort to establish a council that would focus on live cattle issues — separate from the beef checkoff program, which deals with promotion, research and education related to beef — has been in the works for three years, said Dave Daley, a fifth-generation rancher in Butte County and past president of the California Cattlemen’s Association.
Votes in favor of the new council — and a $1 assessment on all cattle over 250 pounds sold in the state — claimed 68% of ballots cast in the producer referendum held by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
The idea started with ranchers and members of the California Cattlemen’s Association who felt the industry needed a voice in issues that affect them beyond what is permitted in the beef checkoff program, Daley said.
The beef checkoff and the California Beef Council do great work on beef promotion, he said, but there are other issues that have an impact on cattle producers’ ability to stay in business.
Ranchers want to be able to work on those issues and make sure all the money raised through an assessment on cattle stays in the state, he said.
While he’s confident producers will see the benefits of the new council, it was also important to have a refund provision built into the program for those who might disagree with an assessment or what the council is doing, he said.
The new council will primarily focus on environmental issues, such as water quality, grazing, wildfire suppression and manure management, he said.
“We can’t use the beef checkoff to work on those issues,” he said.
While the council’s funding can’t be used for litigation or lobbying, it can be used to educate consumers, the public and legislators on how important the cattle industry is to California, both economically and environmentally, he said.
The urban population doesn’t understand that, and it’s going to be an uphill to get that point across. But cattle producers have a good story to tell — from improving water quality to providing open landscapes and wildlife habitat, he said.
The new council will provide the resources and the reach to do that, he said.
About 40 other such councils and commissions in California have been successful in repositioning themselves in a positive light with the public and with lawmakers, he said.
“I look at this as a public relations opportunity,” he said.
It’s a strategic investment, a proactive and preemptive effort regarding regulation that might be the last straw that breaks the camel’s back for cattle producers, he said.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity we have. We really owe it to our ranchers to invest … and make some impact in Sacramento and beyond,” he said.
It’s not a panacea, but it will give producers a way to build bridges and explain their business to the public, legislators and regulators, he said.
The assessment is expected to generate $3 million annually.