Tough Choices: Checkoff budgets tightening
Cheyenne – As members of the Wyoming Beef Council meet in Thermopolis April 8 to hash out their annual budget, it will be another year of tough choices on how to allocate Wyoming’s share of the $1 per head Beef Checkoff.
“We’ve got the smallest U.S. cow herd we’ve seen since the 1950s,” says Wyoming Beef Council Executive Director Ann Wittmann of the program directly correlated to cattle numbers. While Wyoming has difficult choices to make, she says, “It’s even more difficult at the national level. Because the states are going through this financial shortfall, the money being sent on to the national level is being cut back. The whole program is really having to streamline and prioritize where those funds go.”
“They’ve got really hard decisions to make,” says Wittmann of the five cattle producers who make up the Wyoming Beef Council. “They really have a lot of programs they’d like to fund that we just can’t consider given our financial situation right now.” Jim Hellyer of Lander is chairman of the Beef Council and Spencer Ellis of Lovell is vice chairman. Other members are Scott George of Cody, Jim Rogers of Laramie and Judy West of Chugwater.
“Our record year was in 2000 and we collected $1.2 million,” says Wittmann. “From 1997 we averaged about a million.” Wittmann says $950,000 in revenue is anticipated in 2008 and about that same amount in 2009.
“This is like looking into crystal ball to decide how that’s going to come out,” she says. “I don’t anticipate us having that million dollar revenue for some time, if ever.”
Wittmann says the cutbacks have left the board changing the manner in which it contracts with retailers and restaurants and prioritizing programs. “There isn’t enough money to go around. We’re seeing price increases and at the same time it’s costing us more to have the same amount of reach.”
Wittmann says, “It’s been a struggle for the board members to decide what the most effective programs are.” She says their focus has been on reaching the largest number of consumers to increase demand. “Ultimately that is what their responsibility is — to increase demand for beef. Sometimes those projects are not in Wyoming based on our population and our rate of consumption.”
Wittmann says, “It’s always difficult to find balance between investing in programs nationally and supporting programs in the state.” The Wyoming CattleWomen and Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom are just two examples of non-profits that partner with the Beef Council in the name of beef promotion.
The Wyoming Beef Council will meet on April 8 at the Days Inn in Thermopolis at 8 a.m. Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.