Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: No livestock ‘shakedown’ at the fair

In response to Chris McPherson’s June 29 letter to editor, I want to provide an accurate “Fair Shakedown” of the California Mid-State Fair’s 4-H & FFA Livestock Auction program.

It is unfortunate that the amount of false information contained in the submitted letter overshadows the factual data, and moreover, seriously jeopardizes the integrity of this youth program very dear to my heart. The letter is quite misleading, and in order to protect our program, we are compelled to present the true facts to The Tribune’s readership.

The 16th District Agricultural Association operates under the auspices of the state of California and must conform to the policies mandated by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Our direction is clear, and we are obligated to perform under stringent guidelines. The Junior Livestock Auction and Replacement Heifer Sale are no exception to policy and have certain accounting and operational procedures that must be followed.

There is a separate bank account that auction monies pass through, whether for receipt of payments from the buyers or the issuance of payment to the 4-H and FFA sellers. These funds are never co-mingled with the California Mid-State Fair’s bank accounts.

In between these boundaries lie about $80,000 in operational expenses to produce the auction. The expense is covered by the fair on behalf of the program until year-end closing. It is my responsibility to identify the “direct” auction expenses and, if a shared expense, determine an equitable ratio to allocate portions to another department such as exhibits (i.e., wages, judges/hotel/meals, shavings, printing, signage, computer system, etc.).

“Exhibits” includes all of the breeding and non-auction animals. A “direct” auction expense falls under the question, “Would the fair have this expense if there were no auction?” If the answer is no, then it is a direct auction expense (auctioneers, clerks, ringmen, ear tags, transportation to harvest plants, auction catalogs, weight cards, auction lunch/refreshments, photographer and photos, etc.).

A percentage of 6.5 percent of the gross sale is deducted from the seller’s check to defray direct expenses. At end, after all buyer receipts have been collected and upon year-end closing, the fair is repaid for the direct expenses associated with producing the auction.

As you can see, it takes a tremendous amount of time and resources to facilitate the auction program.

Relative to stalling and entry fees, market animals have a $5 entry fee. This provides the exhibitor with a bale of shavings (which costs us $5.20 per bale) in their assigned pen prior to arrival.

When we talk about camping fees, there is only so much available space, and supply and demand dictate the price as often occurs in our everyday lives.

On the mere 42-acre parcel on which the entire fair sits, space is very limited and a portion of the campground is dedicated to 4-H and FFA families during their nine-day stay. The campground has electricity, water and a restroom (with showers), not to mention the convenience of being on grounds and in close proximity to the livestock area. The camping fee privilege is $450 for a 12-by-24-foot space, or $600 for a space more than 25 feet in length to accommodate the bigger RV units.

The California Mid-State Fair proudly supports the 4-H and FFA livestock program.

We work hard to provide a venue to showcase the culmination of many long, hard hours of work spent by these young entrepreneurs in their mini-enterprise projects. It is a life-learning experience filled with educational value and business practices. As one of the most golden fairs in the industry, we truly have so much to be proud of.

I trust this overview can clear up the misleading information that the Junior Livestock Auction is certainly not a part of the fair’s revenue stream.

Vivian Robertson is chief executive officer of the California Mid-State Fair.