Many Utahns who were qualified to vote Tuesday in the national beef checkoff referendum did not visit their county extension offices to vote, industry leaders said Thursday.
Nevertheless, voter turnout in many counties across the state was in the 30 percent category, "which is better than many local and national elections, and is gratifying," said Dr. Norris Stenquist, Utah State University Extension beef specialist."This was probably one of the best publicized farmer-based elections ever held. I'm sorry we didn't get a lot more votes than early tabulations indicate."
The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture is not expected to announce the results of the election until May 25. Approximately 8,000 people were eligible to vote in Utah and about 1.3 million could have voted nationwide.
If the referendum passes, farmers will continue to pay $1 per head of cattle into a fund that promotes beef consumption and supports beef research.
Many observers say most of those who voted Tuesday are the larger cattle producers and major dairymen in the state. A large share of the hobby farmers or those with only a few cattle - who were eligible to vote - didn't, they said.
Anyone who owned or acquired ownership in one or more cattle between Oct. 1, 1986 and March 31, 1988, or who imported cattle, beef or beef products during that period could have voted.
Stenquist said the percentage of eligible farmers who voted in six counties he queried totaled 28 percent in Iron, 22 percent in Cache, 32 percent in Box Elder, 28 percent in Beaver, 39 percent in Sevier and 32 percent in Sanpete.
Davis County Extension agent Shawn Olsen said 33 people voted in his county and 194 were eligible and Heather Rainey, Salt Lake County Extension agent, said 39 voted in her county and, she estimates, "there were several hundred eligible.
"As far as I can determine, most if not all of those who voted in Salt Lake County have large-scale cattle operations."
The $1 checkoff, established by the 1985 Farm Bill, collected $73 million in its first year. Most of the money went for national advertising and information and research programs and the rest went to state promotions.