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Serves on National Check-Off Board

By Staff | May 18, 2015

—Farm News photos by Michele Linck KENT PRUISMANN takes a break from business and poses with some of the beef cattle he raises on the family farm near Rock Valley. He serves on the National Cattleman’s Beef Board.

fiddelke@longlines.com

ROCK VALLEY – Cattleman Kent Pruismann, 64, thought he knew all about the Beef Check-Off program.

After all, he raises beef cattle and had been the District 1 director of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Beef Association since 1986, the year the National Beef Check-Off – which collects a $1 fee each bovine sold – came into existence.

Now he knows much more.

Pruismann said he hit a learning curve in 2011 when U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack confirmed his appointment to a seat on the National Beef Check-off Board after being nominated by his peers.

Pruismann knew little of the often-complex laws, rules, recordkeeping and other procedures of the meticulously non-partisan national board that oversees the check-off program.

“The purpose of the check-off is to build demand for beef,” Pruismann said, sitting at the desk in his home office not far from his feedlot.

“The beef board can’t lobby,” he said. “We have no policy position at all.

“People in our industry don’t understand that.”

Check-off funds

The nationwide program keeps 50 cents of every dollar collected to pay for the national promotion of beef. Each state decides how to promote its beef using its half of that dollar.

In Iowa, the remaining half-dollar goes to the Iowa Beef Council, headquartered in Ames, where it pays for certain research projects contracted to Iowa State University.

The council consists of 30 to 40 board members

The Federation of State Beef Councils acts as a non-partisan firewall between the check-off board and the policy makers, Pruismann said.

“The (national) check-off board is a government thing,” Pruismann said.

He recalled the rabid opposition some beef producers expressed in 1986 when the check-off became law.

“They didn’t want to send their money to Washington,” he said.

Pruismann said his own views changed when he was first appointed to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Board.

He quickly learned, he said, the national organization’s work is a lot more complicated than the states’.

It gets involved in federal policy, Congressional hearings and other legal/policy minutiae. But Pruismann said he got a handle on all that and was reappointed in 2014 to a second term.

He talked about the work of the national organization and how the $1 check-off, basically a sales tax, is used to promote beef consumption.

The Iowa Beef Council uses its funds to produce Iowa-centric beef promotions and grants for research projects.

“The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has recently contracted for a study to answer the question: Is this a sustainable industry?'” Pruismann said.

“We’ve proven we can do much more with fewer resources,” Pruismann said. “For example, we may do a research project with McDonald’s. It may pay 90 percent and us, 10 percent.

“Every five years the check-off needs an independent study on its investment

“For example, a recent evaluation by the University of Pennsylvania determined that the Iowa Cattlemen’s Beef Association got an $11.20 return on every dollar it spent.”

And, Pruismann said, upcoming studies will look at the actual meat supply rather than the number of cattle.

On a different front, he said, “Ninety-two to 96 percent of the (beef) market lies outside of the United States.

“China has more people coming into the middle class in the next five years. Then their diet will change.”

In research, he said the association is looking into ways to reduce beef’s carbon footprint. Another study, he said, shows that an organic system for raising beef “takes way more (money) to finish an animal on grass.

“I would question the long-term sustainability of that system. But if people want it, we’ll raise organic.”

Promos online

Funding for television promotions, such as the former “Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner” promotion, has changed.

The industry has moved more of its commercial promotions to online addresses, Pruismann said, based on market research.

“Our focus has gone digital,” he said. “That’s where the older millennials, the 20s and 30s, get their information.”

Science doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “It’s what their friends tell them.”

And, he added, there’s research to support that, too.

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