DENVER -- Approval of the $1-per-head beef checkoff program remains high, based on a recent survey of beef producers conducted on behalf of the Cattlemen's Beef Board.

The survey, conducted in December and January, found that 73 percent of beef producers approve of the beef checkoff, which is identical to the support level voiced in a survey in January 2005. In July 2005, 72 percent said they approved of the program.

This level of support is the highest it has been since the early '90s, when approval levels were in the low 80-percent range, according to 2005 Beef Board Chairman Alan Svajgr, a beef producer from Cozad, Neb. The 2006 research indicates 17 percent of cattlemen disapprove of the checkoff, the same as found in July 2005.

Other numbers were equally encouraging, according to Svajgr. He said 81 percent of producers surveyed said the Beef Checkoff Program had value, even in a down market.

"Beef producers continue to see that the Beef Checkoff Program provides a good value for the money invested in it," Svajgr says. "And nearly seven in 10 producers believe the checkoff has helped contribute to their operation's profitability through the years. That's encouraging news, and demonstrates producer awareness of what the checkoff was created for in the first place."

Svajgr notes that the research demonstrates a need to better communicate about the checkoff to producers. Eighty-three percent of those producers who say they are very well informed about the checkoff also say they approve of the program. Of the 17 percent who say they are not at all informed, 46 percent approve.

"We certainly would like to have all producers in the 'very well informed' category," Svajgr says.

The research shows that aside from consumer advertising, there is somewhat limited knowledge of programs being conducted through the Beef Checkoff Program - although awareness is improving. Sixty-nine percent of producers in the survey identified consumer advertising as a program conducted through the beef checkoff, while only 8 percent identified beef safety research - the second highest program area identified. About 20 percent of respondents could not identify a beef checkoff activity.

Conducted for the Cattlemen's Beef Board by Aspen Media and Market Research, Boulder, Colo., the telephone survey of a random sample of beef and dairy producers nationwide was completed between Dec. 14, 2005, and Jan. 2, 2006, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percent.

The semi-annual survey of 1,225 producers is demographically representative of the various types of U.S. beef, veal and dairy operations in the United States, based on the 2002 Agricultural Census.

The Beef Checkoff Program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.

SOURCE: Cattlemen's Beef Board news release.