California Cattlemen Approve $1 Per Head Funding For Cattle Council

California's Cattle Council will soon begin funding programs designed to help consumers understand the positive role cattle and beef production play in the environment, and other issues. ( Wyatt Bechtel )

California cattlemen voted to approve the state’s new Cattle Council by a 2 to 1 margin in a referendum held last month. The California Department of Food and Agriculture announced the results of the referendum have been certified and show that 68% of producers favor the implementation of the council. The law went into effect April 5, 2019.

“I am extremely pleased with the strong support demonstrated by ranchers throughout California for the Cattle Council,” said Dave Daley, chair of the Cattle Council Outreach Committee. “It became clear to me very early on that once ranchers learned more about the Cattle Council, they were overwhelmingly supportive.”

Daley told Drovers that environmental issues “are first and foremost” in California in terms of getting people to understand that beef is important, not only as a protein source, but also for the environment.

“The general public just doesn’t understand how important cattle are to protecting the environment, open space and habitat,” Daley said. “We have a great product and we do some really important things to protect California landscapes and we're really proud of that.”

The new Cattle Council mandates an assessment of an additional $1 per head on cattle sold, including dairy animals over 250 pounds. The new law also provides a refund provision for ranchers who do not wish to participate. Daley said the projected income for the Cattle Council is $3 million to $3.5 million annually.

California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 965 into law in the fall of 2018, which established the process by which farmers and ranchers could create the California Cattle Council. Specifically, the Cattle Council will fund research, education and promotion that will focus on issues facing ranchers and live cattle production. It will also provide “the ability to defend against the baseless attacks launched by those who see to put us out of business,” according to a statement by the Outreach Committee.

The funds cannot be used for lobbying, campaign contributions or litigation. They can be used for promotion, public relations, crisis management and education, including providing factual information to policy makers, regulators and agencies.

The Cattle Council will be under the control of a local board made up of cattle producers. “This board will not only direct the activities of the Council, it will also ensure that the Council is not subject to the federal beef checkoff program or be influenced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. The Council will be responsive to the unique needs and issues facing live cattle production exclusively in California.”

California Cattlemen’s Association president Mark Lacey called the $1 assessment in the Cattle Council an “investment in a wonderful way of life.”

While the Cattle Council may not single-handedly resolve all the issues affecting producers in California, Lacey said, “it is the cheapest insurance ranchers can buy to protect the freedom to operate since it will increase our ability to be at the table to work on issues that are critical to our future.”