Livestock checkoff programs: what 4-H members need to know

As we approach a new fair season, it is important to understand how beef, lamb and pork checkoffs apply to your 4-H projects.

A girl holding a white steer.
Photo credit: Jennifer Wasson.

Checkoff programs are a significant funding source for the nation’s livestock industries. The beef, lamb and pork industries each collect a mandatory checkoff fee from producers when they sell their animals. These dollars are used for research, promotion of the industry, and producer and consumer education. 

This article will focus specifically on how these checkoff programs apply to youth exhibitors at fairs and exhibitions. 4-H members and other youth exhibitors who take market livestock projects to the fair are considered producers and must pay checkoff fees. Typically, the fair board or livestock sale committee will deduct this cost from the youth exhibitors’ sale checks and remit the fees to the appropriate commission on behalf of the entire group.

The Pork Checkoff is mandatory and required by law. A fee of $0.35 per $100 in value is assessed to the seller at the time of sale and is remitted to the National Pork Board. A simple formula to calculate your Pork Checkoff fee is to multiply your total sale amount by 0.035; the result is how much you owe to the National Pork Board. In the case of fairs and exhibitions, this fee is deducted from the exhibitor’s sale check and the livestock sale committee handles remittance to the National Pork Board. Failure to comply can result in fines.

The Beef Checkoff is also mandatory and required by law. Finding the amount owed in checkoff fees for beef and dairy beef animals is a bit simpler than pork. For beef and dairy beef animals, the producer owes $1 per head each time the animal is sold. This fee is assessed to the seller. In the case of fairs and exhibitions, the livestock sale committee will deduct $1 per head from each exhibitor’s sale check and remit it to the Michigan Beef Industry Commission.

The national Lamb Checkoff is required by law and remitted to the American Lamb Board. It is $0.007 per pound of live weight (assessed to the seller) plus a $0.42 “first handler assessment” (assessed to the buyer). In addition to the mandatory national lamb checkoff program, Michigan has a voluntary lamb checkoff of $0.40 per head that can be remitted to the Michigan Sheep Producers Association. In the case of fairs and exhibitions, the livestock sale committee will deduct the appropriate amount from the exhibitor’s sale checks and remit those funds accordingly, both to the American Lamb Board and the Michigan Sheep Producers Association.

We pay checkoff fees because it is required by law, but there are many great benefits at the state and national levels. These dollars go toward promotion, research and education efforts within each industry. All of these efforts benefit those within the industry, including youth producers. Checkoff programs are also very supportive of youth programs like 4-H because they recognize that youth in animal agriculture are the future of their industries.

If you’re interested in market livestock 4-H projects, contact your local Michigan State University Extension office to discuss this with your 4-H program coordinator and find a club.

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