By Suzy Geppert, SDBIC Executive Director

Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.

You’re likely familiar with the slogan, because after more than two decades, it still resonates. The well-known words are part of the message the South Dakota Beef Industry Council (SDBIC) has worked for nearly 30 years to share with the goal to increase beef demand, and generate positive attitudes about beef while improving profit opportunities for beef producers.

The Beef Checkoff is a national marketing and research program established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. Checkoff dollars are utilized strictly for promotion, education or research programs. The SDBIC collects and administers the $1 beef checkoff on cattle sold in South Dakota. Fifty cents of every dollar are directed to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board for programs on the national level. The SDBIC retains 50 cents, which is invested in additional national programs or in-state programs.

Virtually everything the checkoff does is research based. Checkoff research has provided the industry supportive data to justify beef nutrition and address misinformation and challenges to our industry before it even hits the news.  This new, “Beyond the Plate” series is designed to tell the checkoff story and show you how your dollar is used. It cannot be told in one short article or one quick radio interview, because the checkoff infrastructure is complex, broad, and invaluable. 

I have the extreme honor and privilege of representing the SDBIC as its Executive Director, and it is a role I take very seriously. As a former educator, I always pushed my students to do the research, learn the facts, and make a qualified decision. This is the route I chose in researching this position as executive director when I signed on a year ago. I knew the SDBIC managed the beef checkoff—and that I paid the checkoff as a producer—but in all honesty, I had never taken the time to educate myself about all its components and their role in the industry. It just so happens that my interview presentation for this position was titled, “What is the greatest thing to come out of the beef checkoff?”  After taking the time to research the checkoff and look at all the components, my answer was clear. The greatest thing to come from the beef checkoff is long-term sustainability for the beef industry.

Sustainability is one of those buzz words that is often hard to grasp.  There can be so many different definitions connected to the term and most of the time its relevance is tied to a broader, more indefinable realm—the environment, health, economy, and yes, even the beef industry.  The question we are constantly asking ourselves is, “What does sustainability look like?”  The answer to this question changes in accordance to the goals and missions surrounding it. Is it maintainable, supportable, justifiable, defensible, and most of all viable? In other words—does it have the ability to last.

The checkoff was designed to create a solid infrastructure in which to guarantee our beef industry continues, with the main goal of building and maintaining beef demand. It was designed to be broad and all-encompassing so it had the ability to go, “Beyond the Plate”. This why it is considered an industry catalyst. Although the checkoff was designed to be broad in its makeup to address the above sustainability questions, those who created it also understood the checkoff could not dive into policy, and there is reason for this. 

The checkoff requires a dollar be collected on every beef animal sold, and in turn, it represents all beef producers—no matter their political affiliation. The SDBIC is a prime example of this structure.  The council is made up of eight partner organizations: South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, South Dakota Farmers Union, South Dakota Farm Bureau, South Dakota Livestock Auction Market Association, South Dakota Beef Breeds Council, South Dakota CattleWomen, and the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Auxiliary.  The role of the South Dakota Beef Industry Council is to move the industry forward in an un-biased manner that engages all producers in the promotion, education, and research of beef.  It cannot do this effectively unless it maintains an unbiased presence and is open to all viewpoints.  Politics cannot and will not be allowed into the discussion. 

How does the checkoff support our industry? It’s all about demand.  The checkoff is used to create and build incentive programs, advertising, and promotion campaigns, like-minded influencer partnerships, state-to-state partnerships, and beef education programs designed to explore nutrition, educate about the industry, and provide consumer information based on factual research. Technology allows us to target specific markets whether they are domestic or abroad. Our state-to-state partnerships are great examples of these targeted metropolitan markets. In a future article, I will share more about the South Dakota checkoff’s contribution to help sell more beef in areas with large consumer populations. To put this into perspective, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), cattle outnumber humans by more than 4 to 1 in South Dakota.  In New York state alone, humans outnumber cattle by 13 to 1. We collaborate with this state to help them promote and build beef demand in a state that has close to 20 million consumers.  We need those consumers to buy our product, and herd size/population ratios limit their checkoff fund availability for promotion.  It is all about size and scope.

Do you have more questions? We want to hear from you. Do your research and explore opportunities to build on what was started.

Upcoming “Beyond the Plate” stories will address your questions, share South Dakota checkoff stories, and highlight industry impacts. For further information on the SDBIC and the Beef Checkoff contact Suzy Geppert, sgeppert@sdbeef.org.  For national program efforts visit www.beefboard.org.