I bet you haven't!  But the ranchers of Texas - and by extension you - paid $11 million dollars last year to promote beef to you the consumer.  That is the amount of money the Beef Board and the USDA collected just from Texas ranchers in 2013 to promote beef and conduct research on beef for the industry - a dollar a head every time an animal was sold.  Now the state of Texas itself wants to dip its nose in the trough.

For the past twenty years, the Beef Board and the USDA have been collecting this “fee” every time a beef animal was sold.  It was challenged, and it even went up to the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court ruled that it was “not” a free speech issue and that the government had a right to collect such fees (they do it with many agricultural commodities) for use in “government speech”.

But, of course, the government speech must be generic.  They can’t promote a particular producer or a particular state.  This is naturally to the advantage of the big agro-industry producers, and not to the small family producers.  Look at this as a subsidy through the Beef Board and the USDA handed out to the big associations like the Cattlemens Association to promote the sale of big industries’ commodity product – where ever it comes from.  That means that those dollars collected from Texas ranchers are going to promote beef brought in from Mexico and Uruguay.   After all, the big associations and the industry have fought tooth and nail not to implement the “Country of Origin” label that is the law and is should be on all beef.

Now, here comes the state of Texas who would like to promote Texas beef.  So, the “powers that be”; The Texas Department of Agriculture, the Texas Beef Council, and the Beef Promotion and Research Council of Texas, along with all the major beef associations and big agro-industry producers suddenly hear a ground swell of demand from small family ranches to get out there and promote Texas Beef.

Funny, I didn’t feel a ground swell under my ranch or from any of the ranchers who are the back bone of Bastrop Cattle Company.   Hum, must have missed it!

Here is the logic behind the new fee.  Due to inflation the dollar that is now taken on each animal is only worth about 44 cents.  And since we’ve had a drought and fewer ranchers are in business, and food prices are so high, and the consumption of beef is down – we need to take another $1.00 out of the ranchers pocket to promote beef to the American consumer and to overseas consumers to encourage them to buy more beef.  In this case, Texas beef.  (FYI, the State of Texas already gets half of the $11 million collected last year just for this purpose!).

Now let’s look at this logic.  The numbers of ranchers are down.  The number of cattle in the national herd (and the Texas herd) are down.  No one is having any trouble selling beef because there is a very high demand (despite the fact that prices are soaring).  In fact, there is so much demand for cattle and beef (both in the US and abroad – think China!), that prices are still going up.  And while consumption of beef percentage wise is down, overall numbers are up.

However, there is one problem.  The increased consumption is in the area of grass-fed/natural/ organic, not in the traditional beef market.

Oh, and did I mention that if you check out the promotional material now being circulated by the Beef Board and the USDA (that is if you can find it!), it will tell you that all beef is good, and that there is “no difference” between grass-fed/natural/organic and the traditional corn finished, feed lot beef!

So, let’s see, will the “powers that be” in Texas be taking a different stance and using my money to push grass-fed/natural/organic beef?

Well what do you think, given that both the Texas Beef Council and the Beef Promotion and Research Council of Texas have directors that represent the major industries, the major feed lots, and the traditional associations.  Oh, and no one that represents the grass-fed people?

But we will have a referendum and the ranchers will get a chance to vote.  Right?

Talk about trying to make sure you get your way.  Here are the rules to vote.

You must be in the cattle business for the last year.

You must cast your vote between June 2nd and June 6th.

You must cast your vote physically at any Ag. Extension office.

If you sell cattle in Texas, but don’t live in Texas, you can vote.

If you can’t get to an Ag. Extension office you can mail in a ballot, but you must request a ballot between May 19th and June 2nd, and it must be mailed and post marked no later than June 2nd.

Oh, and by the way, these people who think it is so necessary to promote Texas Beef and are telling us that they know how (did I mention that the Texas Beef Council and the Beef Promotion and Research Council of Texas will be the ones administering the money?), can’t seem to launch any advertising campaign to let ranchers know about the referendum.

I found out about it when a journalist called me for comment three days ago.

Hum.  This basically sounds like the people who have everything to gain from getting more money (to promote their product, to hire another outside advertising agency, to add more people on to their association payrolls, to get back some of the lobbying money they put out to the politicians who helped them put this idea forward) have found a way to take the money from the people who have no say or control in how it will be used.

Wow, talk about a closed loop of self-interest.  And I thought the only thing bull shit was good for was compost!

Do me a favor please, tell anyone you know who is a family rancher to vote “no”.

Then call your state representative and tell them that you don’t need money taken from hard working ranching families turned over to a bunch of big ag guys to be used to tell you to buy more beef.  Would you do that for me please?  Thank you.