Effort to make beef checkoff voluntary fails in the House

Many legislators want rules changed

By Dylan Sherman



An attempt to make the state beef checkoff payments voluntary failed in the North Dakota House on Feb. 9 by a vote of 41 to 53. However, legislators said changes need to be made in the future.

House Bill 1487 would have made the $1 beef checkoff paid to the state Beef Commission voluntary for local producers. Beef producers now pay a $1 per head checkoff on all beef sold in the U.S. and a second $1 per head to the state Beef Commission. Beef producers can request a refund for the state checkoff payments.

Beef producers in favor of the bill told the House Agriculture Committee on Feb. 5 about difficulty they face in applying for a refund and where the checkoff money is being spent in state. 

Rep. Sebastian Ertelt, R-Lisbon, the sponsor of the bill, argued that the checkoff is another tax for producers, from a non-elected board.

“This is a tax, you can call it a checkoff, assessment, a fee or you can call it whatever you want, but it’s a tax,” he said. “[The Beef Commission] is an appointed board, and it has the control over the funds that go to it.”

Rep. Jon Nelson, R-Rugby, said his district has more cattle constituents than humans, and last year the Independent Beef Association of North Dakota invited him to a gathering discussing issues. 

“They don’t feel they have a place at the table,” he said. “I think the beef checkoff is a great tool, to market beef, but everyone should be at the table.” He voted against the bill, but he said he wants to see the Beef Commission change to an elected board.

Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Devils Lake, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said it was demonstrated to the committee that it is very easy to get the refund from the state.

“When we passed [the checkoff] in 2015 for the extra dollar, it was very specifically put into language that you would have the opportunity to get the refund,” he said.