State Board of Agriculture approves Checkoff MOU with Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association
(A version of this article appears in the October 4, 2018 edition of The Farmer’s Pride)
By Ray Bowman
One of the duties of the Kentucky State Board of Agriculture is oversight of the ten promotional programs that have been created by statute and are administered by commodity groups. These programs are more commonly referred to as check-offs, which derive their funding from assessments on the sale of agricultural products in the Commonwealth.
At the September meeting of the board, the Kentucky Poultry Federation and the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association presented reports on their promotional efforts.
Jaime Guffey, Executive Director of the Kentucky Poultry Federation, presented a concise yet thorough report of his organization’s promotional efforts, which the board approved. However, the report from the KCA sought the assistance of the Ag Board in preemptively addressing a problem facing 14 other state beef cattle associations.
“Our office has been basically turned upside down in the last two months,” KCA Executive Vice President Dave Maples told the board.
The cause of the disruption and concern was a lawsuit filed against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) by the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF), questioning the constitutionality of the Montana Beef Council program using producer funds to subsidize the message of a private organization. The initial suit was filed in Montana federal district court on May 2, 2016. An injunction was issued in June of 2017 prevented the Montana Beef Council from utilizing the state’s half of federal checkoff dollars.
R-CALF moved in August of this year to expand the injunction to include Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin.
“We were not included because we have had state law since 1976,” Maples continued. That legislation covers the Kentucky Beef Council’s use of both the federal and state check-off funds.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the board and the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association was introduced at the board’s quarterly meeting to further clarify the state oversight of the promotion program.
“Montana and the other states that don’t have a state law are going through this process with UDSA,” Maples said. “Since we have state law, our leadership thought it would be better to come here (to the state board) than to USDA.” Maples added that the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association enjoys a positive working relationship with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, adding that other state associations may not have that relationship with their state ag agencies.
“We’re just trying to be proactive,” Maples observed. “I think we’ve been proactive with our legislation and what we’ve done in the past, which is why we’re not included in this lawsuit.”
“(The MOU) is above and beyond the statute, but due to the lawsuit, it’s taking a step to keep Kentucky from being drug into it,” noted Keith Rogers, Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Chief of Staff.
The board gave its approval to the measure and the following day the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association approved the document.