Kansan Sees Firsthand Results of Checkoff
“Decisions are made by the people who show up,” Randall Debler repeated. As a full-time cattleman in Alma, Kansas, his personal philosophy of giving back and showing up for the important decisions means he whole-heartedly represents beef producers on the Kansas Beef Council (KBC) in his current role as vice chairman of the KBC Executive Committee.
“I have had the privilege of seeing firsthand all the great things we can do, and are doing, with Beef Checkoff funds,” he said. Debler will take the reins as chairman in 2022. “I really wanted to sit with people who care as much about the beef industry and want to see it prosper as much as I do. The industry has done so much for me and this was an avenue for me to give my time and effort back.”
Serving the Industry
In his five years on KBC, Debler has seen all angles of the Beef Checkoff dollar: how it’s spent, how it’s evaluated and how it has impacted our industry. He’s encouraged by Checkoff-funded projects that include supporting family and consumer science teachers using beef in the classroom, working with dietitians to promote the health benefits of beef, developing value-added cuts of beef from in-house development, as well as offering the Beef Quality Assurance program.
“The people on the executive committee are the same people who are paying the checkoff,” Debler said. “Everyone there is in beef production on some level, like myself, a cow-calf producer, and we have seedstock producers, stockers, sale barns and feedlots. The one common denominator is that we are all paying the checkoff along with everyone else. It is in our best interests to see the dollars get handled in the best way and get the best bang for our buck.”
Checking the Checkoff
Checks and balances are an important part of the Beef Checkoff, which is overseen by USDA. The Beef Checkoff was created in 1985 as a producer-driven effort to increase beef demand. USDA remains the delegated authority by Congress to review all Beef Checkoff budgets, projects, contracts, and communications.
“I’m privileged to sit on both sides and to ensure we do have those checks and balances,” he said of serving on the Consumer Trust Committee and the Evaluation Committee of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB), the national organization that oversees and manages the Beef Checkoff.
Prior to the Beef Checkoff though, Kansas saw similar challenges in the industry and formed KBC in 1973 within the Kansas Livestock Association (KLA). KBC, now as a Qualified State Beef Council member of CBB, is tasked with beef promotion, research, consumer information, industry information and producer communications within the state and even nationwide. Unlike KLA, however, KBC is strictly prohibited from spending its funds on policy. To comply with the law that directs the Beef Checkoff, KBC must set and maintain firewalls from KLA to ensure checkoff dollars are managed separately and properly, preserving the efficacy of the program.
Maximizing Producer Impact
“I like to tell producers about the impact CBB and KBC have had on the export market and how that impacts their bottom line,” Debler said. “More than 300 dollars for every finished steer is attributed to the export market.” He mentioned specifically a campaign that was funded by CBB in Japan to increase the already growing demand for American cuts, which was a recent success.
While the dollar-per-head checkoff is designed to promote beef, Debler recognizes producers do not always realize the impact of their dollars. “The initial thought was that we should take these precious dollars and spend them where we are not preaching to the choir,” Debler said of using the dollars to reach consumers as opposed to producers. Now, it is time to revisit producer communication and improve the correspondence to include them in the success of the program.
“The newly revamped Kansas Beef Producer Hub is a great place to see how KBC invests Checkoff funds,” Debler said. BeefHub offers continuing education for producers, annual reporting, program updates and more at KansasBeef.org. “We also try to compile research about common misconceptions of the beef industry,” he said, specifically pointing out current research combating greenhouse gas claims producers can utilize in conversations with consumers. Debler recommends producers sign up for publications like CBB’s The Drive and KBC’s newsletter to see the impact of their dollars in Kansas and worldwide.
Participation is key for producers. Debler encourages those interested to volunteer for leadership roles in any of the ag groups across the state and notes the highlight of his tenure has been the people. “Meeting producers all over the country, we see how so many of our problems are different, yet so many of them are the same.”
As a Flint Hills rancher raising the next generation of kids and calves, Debler firmly believes the Beef Checkoff, at both the national and state levels, is critical to our future. “It’s such a great industry and we are trying to bring it along and move it forward the best we can,” Debler said. “You just need to show up to have input and an impact.”