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The North Dakota Beef Commission, then and now


In the late 1960’s, a group of North Dakota cattle producers who believed their product should be promoted, began investing in a voluntary beef checkoff program. The objective was to utilize the funds in-state as well as collaborate with other beef-producing states to promote beef consumption in population centers of the country.

By all accounts, those efforts were quite successful and producers soon decided the idea merited participation by every North Dakota cattle producer. They brought a bill before the North Dakota Legislature in 1971. Although the bill passed both chambers, it was ultimately vetoed by Governor Bill Guy. Between the 1971 and 1973 legislative sessions, cattle producers worked to address Governor Guy’s concerns and returned to the Legislature with a revised bill in 1973. This bill was signed into law, ultimately creating the North Dakota beef checkoff and the North Dakota Beef Commission (NDBC).

In 1973, North Dakota’s beef checkoff collected 10 cents per head. By law, half of the funds were forwarded to the Beef Industry Council (BIC) of the National Live Stock & Meat Board to promote beef on a national scale; a quarter of the funds were designated for research and the remaining funds were used to promote beef within North Dakota.

From 1973 to 1983, the checkoff rate increased twice, from the original 10 cents to 25 cents and then 50 cents per head. By October of 1986, cattle producers throughout the country saw merit in a coordinated national beef promotion system and the federal Beef Promotion and Research Act, a part of the 1985 Farm Bill, authorized a mandatory national beef checkoff program at the rate of $1 per head.  Producers voted and approved the continuation of this program in 1988.


The national beef checkoff remains a mandatory $1-per-head assessment that supports beef demand-building programs on a state, national and international basis. The NDBC, comprised of 9 voting members, decides how North Dakota funds are invested. Per federal law, 50 cents of the $1-per-head assessment is forwarded to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) to fund research, promotion and education programs on a national basis. The North Dakota Beef Commission allocates the remaining 50 cents between in-state promotion, education and research initiatives and/or other national and international efforts coordinated by contractors of the CBB. Federal law does not allow for refunds of the mandatory national beef checkoff.

NDBC representatives remain strongly committed to beef promotion, research and education programs at the state and national level by working through the CBB and the successor organization to the BIC, the Federation of State Beef Councils, the checkoff arm of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. They also have supported international beef promotion efforts coordinated by the US Meat Export Federation for several decades.

In 2015, North Dakota cattle producers who recognized the value of the checkoff’s promotion, research and education efforts returned to North Dakota’s Legislative Assembly with the idea of adding a new, refundable dollar to the mandatory $1-per-head national checkoff assessment. The bill, House Bill 1238, passed overwhelmingly during the 2015 North Dakota Legislative Session, and went into effect on Aug. 1, 2015.  This new state dollar is overseen by the beef producer directors of the NDBC.