Beef Tax, Take Two

Exhibit by  Oregon Cattle & Horse Raisers Association, circa 1940 / OSU

Exhibit sponsored by Oregon Cattle and Horse Raisers Association, circa 1940 / OSU

My blogpost last week, “Taxation Without Representation, Beef Industry Style,” highlighting the problems of the federally sanctioned beef tax (commonly referred to as the “beef checkoff”) drew an analysis from Kendal Frazier, the chief operating officer at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). (See the comments section for his response.) He may not remember me, but I have interacted with Kendal periodically over the years when he was an agriculture reporter in Kansas, as well as working public relations for the Kansas Livestock Association, and I worked first at the Kansas Farmers Union and then as communications director for then Kansas Congressman Dan Glickman. Read More >

Taxation Without Representation, Beef Industry Style

The Beef Checkoff Program is funded by  a beef tax on producers.

The Beef Checkoff Program is funded by
a beef tax on producers.

Most consumers are familiar with the advertising campaigns promoting specific diet choices—for example, “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner,” featuring the baritone voice of Hollywood actor Sam Elliott, or “Got Milk?” or “Pork, the Other White Meat.” All these campaigns seek to influence consumer choices and increase demand for the specific promoted commodity, often at the expense of the other choices. But do you know how these multimillion dollar advertising campaigns are funded? Few people do.

These campaigns are funded by a mandatory tax on producers. In the case of beef cattle, there is a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)–sanctioned $1 fee levied on every head of cattle sold in the U.S., with a comparable amount levied on imported beef. This tax Read More >

Unsupported Claims About Livestock and Climate Change in the Media

As a public health doctoral student, I have been taught the importance of communicating scientific information to the public, journalists, and policy makers in a careful manner, especially when dealing with complex issues.  Scientific research almost never provides clear answers, but as a scientist you should never make statements that overstep the conclusions of your work, even if it would make your life easier by simplifying the message you are trying to get across.  Describing questions that remain unanswered and limitations of studies is important.  While reading a news release last week regarding research on food animal production and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, I was suspicious that this “rule” was not being followed.

An air quality scientist at UC Davis, Professor Frank Mitloehner, has been in the press talking about implications of his research on livestock production and GHGs (here, here, and here).  He has been quoted as saying it is  “scientifically inaccurate” and a “distraction” to encourage a reduction in meat consumption as part of an effort to combat climate change.  Those are very strong statements, so I did a little digging to see if his research supports these claims. Read More >