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Challenges to Beef Checkoff Fully Warranted

The Beef Checkoff has faced its share of scandals over the years. With a private, $90 million marketing and research program, it wouldn’t be all that unusual, but the checkoff is federally mandated by law and regulated by USDA. Or is it? The producers have very little control of the program, when USDA not far behind. However, the illusion of producer control has been cloaked well by the Federation of State Beef Councils. Most organizations implement significant financial controls to prevent improper use of funds, and worse, all out fraud. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s very own claims to defend their anti-reform agenda have shown they will stop at nothing to protect the flow of funds the Beef Checkoff provides them, including control of the Federation. An anti-reform agenda indicates a perfect checkoff, which we know is certainly not the case.

Without full transparency, the Beef Checkoff is not producer controlled. In fact, the Agriculture Marketing Service, charged with oversight of the Beef Checkoff program, has little oversight at all. The corporate influence continually reassures producer control using producer’s dollars in expensive advertising campaigns, but that is virtually a scam designed to contract multi-million-dollar projects and funnel millions of dollars into lobbying efforts designed to vertically integrate the industry on a global scale. As a result, hundreds of thousands of ranchers board up shop and ultimately their rural communities follow suit.

Each Cattlemen’s Beef Board member is appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture from nominations submitted by certified nominating organizations. KCA is a nominating organization. Thirty-seven states have individual members serving on the Board. The remainder of states are divided into three regions. Importer appointments are drawn from nominations by importer associations. Qualified State Beef Councils are currently permitted by USDA to withhold, for their use, a portion up to fifty-cents of each dollar assessment collected by the QSBCs. State Beef Councils then use the funds to purchase seats on the Federation of State Beef Councils.

The Federation of State Beef Councils then controls the funds, and is under no obligation to return any funds back to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. This provides them the ability to pick and choose how to spend millions of dollars’ worth of beef checkoff contributions, unchecked and without oversight, and to spend it with contractors of their choice. NCBA is, by far, the largest contractor for the Beef Checkoff, and the Federation website is literally hosted on the NCBA website.

The overall design is the most convoluted system, and it screams dirty. Kansas Cattlemen’s Association fully supports a Beef Checkoff, but it is long-overdue that the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and the Federation of State Beef Councils file for divorce, with CBB taking full custody, so the Checkoff becomes fully transparent in all aspects of programs, research, and funding.

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