CA: Live Cattle Excitement in the California Legislature

New law allows creation of a California Cattle Council for marketing and promotion, defending dairy and beef production in California

This message appeared in the Oct. 11 newsletter of Western United Dairymen prepared by the government affairs team

The Government Affairs Team at WUD is pleased to report the organization secured a major legislative victory this year when Governor Brown signed into law SB 965 by Senator Mike McGuire. Co-sponsored by WUD and the California Cattlemen’s Association, the bill allows ranchers and dairy producers to vote on the formation of a California Cattle Council. If approved by referendum next year, a California Cattle Council will create a separate marketing and promotion entity to focus on issues important to dairy and beef producers. The Council will work to support all types of producers – from large to small as well as conventional and organic. The focus of this Council will be on live production
practices, which our current dairy and beef checkoffs do not allow funds for. If dairy and cattle producers vote to form the Council, a refundable $1 per head assessment would be added to the sale of all cattle in the state. A board of ranchers and dairymen would be formed to select funding priorities and direct the Council’s activities, including production of cattle, research, promotion and public education.

Below is a Q&A from our coalition partners at the Cattlemen’s Association on the passage of SB 965.

1.How is this a win for California’s beef and dairy producers? This is a major win for our industries. If the producer vote is successful, it will allow cattle and dairy families to decide how they want their money spent and how they want the industry represented to Californians. We can finally take control of the narrative of beef and dairy production in our state. The Cattle Council is going to allow the industry to collectively fight back against environmentalists and animal rights activists that have been misrepresenting our issues for decades. The fact that this bill was signed into law is a testament to the many, many ranchers from across the state that helped make it happen.

The next step is the vote but the fact that we got it here is incredible. Many thanks to the ranching and dairy families for moving this through the process in Sacramento and for providing valuable testimony before the Legislature! It’s now up to ranchers and dairy families, not environmental groups, to decide if the Cattle Council is something we want.

  1. Various environmental and animal rights groups were in strong opposition to the bill. Why were they so strongly opposed? The primary reason that environmental and animal rights groups are opposed to this bill is that they know it will work. They don’t want us to be able to educate the public and legislators on the many positive impacts of beef and dairy production because they know it may increase demand, and it has the distinct opportunity to mute the negative perceptions that the public holds about agriculture production and the environment. Those anti-agriculture groups don’t want us to be able to do research that would help ranching and dairy farming to be more sustainable, economical and profitable. Their ultimate goal is to stop animal agriculture in the state and they know a California Cattle Council would help to reposition cattle production as an indispensable part of California, for the environment and for consumers.
  2. What direct benefit will this $1 be for producers should the referendum pass? The Council will be able to focus on live cattle promotion, education and research. Californians, including regulators and legislators will begin to hear a positive message about beef and dairy production; the environmental and economic benefits to local communities and the high level of care we give our animals. The record can finally be set straight and people will see the incentives in preserving dairy production in California.

Ranchers and dairy producers on the board will also be able to direct funds to address other research needs such as vaccine development for pink eye, anaplasmosis and foothill abortion disease. The possibilities are almost infinite when it comes to the Council being able to identify live cattle issues and use those dollars to respond.

And, The bill includes a refund provision. Why is that important and can it be removed? The bill does include a refund provision that cannot be removed. It allows dairy and beef producers to request a full refund of their $1 per head without prejudice. This is important because it ensures dairy and ranching families have control over the dollars collected and the Council’s actions. If for some reason producers don’t like what the Council is doing, they can simply ask for a refund and get their money back. Control of funding lies in the hands of the dairy industry and that’s a powerful check on the Council’s activities.

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