DES MOINES, IA (DTN)--Two-thirds of beef producers continue to support the beef checkoff, according to the results of an independent survey released at the 2002 Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Reno, NV.

The survey results were announced at the meeting on July 19, according to a Cattlemen's Beef Board news release. The research indicates that 66% of producers approve of the checkoff, while 22% disapprove. The level of support was 68% in January.

Conducted for the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB) by Aspen Media and Market Research, Boulder, Colo., the research was completed in June 2002. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1%. The semi-annual survey is demographically representative of U.S. beef and veal producers and dairymen.

The independent research found that 45% of producers believe the industry is headed in the wrong direction, while only 40% feel optimistic about the current direction of the beef and dairy industries.

Producer optimism about the direction of their industry has plummeted 35 points since July 2001. At the same time, however, the research also indicated that 71% of producers believe that the beef checkoff program has value, even when the market is down.

"Despite the depressed cattle market, it's gratifying to see that producers understand the value of the checkoff," said CBB Chairman Dee Lacey, a beef producer from Paso Robles, CA.

Currently, the beef checkoff, established in 1985, is being challenged in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, following a judge's ruling that the checkoff is unconstitutional.

On July 10 the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in Minneapolis, MN, ruled that the beef checkoff program can continue collections and activities while it considers a South Dakota judge's ruling declaring the checkoff unconstitutional.

The challenge to the checkoff's constitutionality was raised by the Livestock Marketing Association (LMA) and other plaintiffs. The LMA doesn't believe independent producers should have to pay for checkoff advertising that promotes beef in general and not U.S. beef.

The checkoff is currently funding a $2.8 million summer grilling promotion designed to move the record supplies of beef on the market. According to the CBB, the checkoff is funding a variety of efforts such as managing negative issues in the media, conducting new product development and food safety research and educating youth and consumers about the nutritional benefits of beef.

The survey indicated that more than three out of five producers believe that if there were no beef checkoff program, no one else would pay for beef promotion, while 88% of producers find it important that beef importers pay the checkoff on imported beef and beef products. In addition, nearly seven in 10 believe the checkoff helps producers compete with the aggressive promotion programs of poultry and pork.

According to the survey, 57% of producers consider themselves either well informed or somewhat informed about the checkoff, while 43% said they were uninformed or unaware of the checkoff. But most beef producers say they want to be kept informed about the checkoff; 91% said it was important to them to know how their checkoff dollars are being invested and what the results of those investments are.

CBB said the Producer Attitude Survey involves telephone interviews with a random sample of producers. The sample is representative of the various sizes and types of dairy and beef operations in the United States, based on the Agriculture Census.

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