The petition that attempts to bring about the end of the National Beef Checkoff will have more time to gather signatures from ranchers.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack this week granted an extension to organizers of the Petition Drive until October 3, 2021. The extension grants extra time for organizers to collect the necessary signatures on the petition calling for a producer vote of the National Beef Checkoff Program.
The South Dakota Livestock Auction Markets Association and Kansas-based Stratford Angus organized and initiated the petition drive that began July 2, 2020. The Department of Agriculture originally established a 12-month period for the collection of the required 88,269 signatures.
To hold the referendum on the checkoff, USDA requires 10% of the nation’s cattlemen to sign the petition. If the required number is reached, USDA will have to audit the petition and ensure that the signers have owned, sold or purchased cattle in the last year.
R-CALF USA and other groups have helped collect signatures but due to COVID-19-related restrictions, they say they were unable to meet with cattle producers for several months in locations such as livestock auction yards and public meeting places. As a result, the organizers and assisting groups were relying upon an online petition site to collect signatures.
In May, the groups behind the petition asked Secretary Vilsack for an additional year to gather signatures but Vilsack responded with only a 90-day extension, writing that the additional time will reflect the prevailing will of cattle producers.
The online petition, as of this writing, has just under 19,000 signed petitions although the organizers do say they have additional paper signatures. The organizers will have 30 days to submit the signatures to USDA once the October 3rd deadline has passed.
R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said, ““We don’t have much time, but R-CALF USA will do everything it can to help the organizers achieve the required signatures by the new deadline.”