We’re in a hurry. Our son has just left the army and moved to Kansas City, and we’re taking his grandparents down to his new home for their first visit. But the trip is unbelievably slow, because we’re behind one of those people. You know the kind. Either unaware of what’s going on around them, or happy to be a dog in the manger to everyone else on the road.
Traffic is heavy, and she’s camped in the left lane at 63 miles an hour. When there’s room in the right line, I try to pass, but she speeds up to 80. I give up and pull back in behind her, whereupon she immediately slows back down. She’s collected about 25 cars behind us, and we’re a caravan of growing road rage. Finally, after about 45 miles, she unexpectedly moves over to the right lane. My blood pressure slowly returns to normal, and we have a great evening welcoming our family back to Missouri.
The Greeks were the first to tell the story of a dog in the manger, not eating or even able to eat the hay there, but happy to deny it to a horse. Just like my tormentor in the left lane, the dog gained pleasure from frustrating others. As I plodded along Interstate 29, my mind drifted to the present campaign to establish a Missouri beef checkoff. The checkoff funds will be used to educate consumers, increase demand for beef and generally promote one of Missouri’s most important industries. The checkoff funds will be raised by assessing producers a dollar each time a beef animal is sold.
This investment seems like a good idea. Unlike other goods and services, where companies have the ability to brand their product and advertising and marketing campaigns benefit individual firms, beef is a commodity. No individual company will promote the product, because advertising benefits his competitor just as much as it does the company paying for the advertising. Years ago, beef producers recognized this problem and began a cooperative program of promoting their product. It’s an absolutely American thing to do. Recognize a problem, volunteer to be part of the solution and work with your neighbors to help solve the problem.
But there is opposition to the increase in the checkoff. Opponents say that the present program hasn’t worked, because beef consumption has gone down. Well, markets change, people’s tastes change, competitors lower prices. The question is not whether consumption has gone down, but rather what consumption would be without promotion on the part of producers. In fact, when consumption is increasing, perhaps promotion isn’t needed as much. It’s when your product is in a challenging environment that you have to work harder and invest more.
Opponents also call the checkoff a tax, which is funny, because producers will have the right to request a full refund of checkoff contributions. Try that with the IRS.
One of the main criticisms of the checkoff program is a lack of accountability. Now, ignore the fact that producers elect the people in charge of the program. Just think about this: What is more accountable than a money-back guarantee?
Like a dog in the manger, like that woman in the left lane of I-29, opponents of the checkoff are against their fellow cattlemen’s ability to contribute simply for the pleasure of denying others what they need. Even though it won’t cost them anything but the price of the postage stamp for the refund request, they want to keep the rest of the cattle industry from working to increase beef demand and protect the farming industry. Here’s a thought: Maybe they should get out of the left lane, and not frustrate people who want to make things better!