Last week ranchers went to the polls over the proposed Texas Beef Checkoff – a program that would use money chipped in from cattle producers to help promote the Texas beef industry.
Voter turnout numbers are now in from the Texas Department of Agriculture, and they’re low – really low.
Ranchers across the state cast about 3600 votes in person, and the ag department is still waiting on another 625 ballots that were mailed out – that’s about 4200 votes, in a state with just over 150,000 cattle ranches.
Staci Schoenfeldt, President of the West of the Pecos chapter of Texas Cattlewomen, says that’s lower than groups like hers backing the checkoff expected.
Despite the low numbers, Schoenfeldt says West Texas ranchers turned out in larger numbers than expected.
“For what we were expecting for the entire region, we saw just out of the Brewster-Jeff Davis County area,” she says.
According to what she’s heard anecdotally, most of the ranchers out west voted in favor of the checkoff.
Still, she says there were some parts of the state where people were more likely to vote against it – mainly in the southeast, where small-scale, local-market ranching is more common.
“The beef that they’re producing is going to a very localized market,” she says, “where they know every single person that is buying their product.”
Schoenfeldt says those ranchers don’t feel like they need the statewide marketing campaigns the checkoff would pay for – they can promote their own beef, one person at a time.
And that’s pretty much been the argument from people opposing the checkoff.
They say it’s fine if the big guys want to chip in the $1 per head of cattle that would pay for statewide ad campaigns, but it really won’t make a difference for the smaller producers, so they’d just as soon not be a part of it.
We won’t know if the checkoff passed or failed until the end of June, but if it passes, all ranchers in the state will start paying that $1 per head on October 1st, whether they’d like to or not.