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Texas Ranchers to Vote on Producer-Funded Marketing & Research Program

Beef prices have reached record highs as drought conditions put cattle populations on the decline. (Travis Bubenik/KRTS)

Voting for the proposed Texas Beef Checkoff Program kicks off Monday (June 2) - ranchers across the state will be deciding whether to set up a producer-funded program that would work to promote the industry in Texas, alongside research and education efforts.

It would be a state-based version of the beef industry's national checkoff program, which already requires cattle producers to pay a $1-per-head assessment into national marketing efforts.

That program is responsible for the popular and years-long "Beef: It's What's for Dinner" ad campaign.

The vote comes just after beef prices reached record highs in March. Meanwhile, because of drought conditions throughout Southwestern Plains, herd sizes are on the decline. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), it "remains to be seen" whether retailers will feature higher-priced cuts through the grilling season.

Still, total beef imports and exports were higher this year compared to last, but the USDA estimates imports will be in higher demand because of the declining cattle population.

If the Texas checkoff program passes, cattle producers will have to pay another $1-per-head into the state marketing and research fund.

Logan Boswell, The Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Agent for Brewster County, says at the moment at least, that's not that much.

"A weaning calf right now will probably bring $700-$900, some of them even more than that," he says, "it wouldn't be a big portion of what they pay in."

The measure seems likely to pass, as it has the backing of the major industry groups in Texas, but some are still opposed to it.

The Texas local foods advocacy group  Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance calls the new program an unnecessary tax that would hurt small-scale ranchers and those raising organic or grass-fed cattle. The group's also opposed to the federal beef checkoff program.

Anyone who owned cattle between 6/6/2013 - 6/6/2014 is eligible to vote - ballots can be cast 6/2 - 6/6 at any AgriLife County Extension Office.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.