Beef producers are stifled by their checkoff

Conflict of interest, corruption, big industry… These are the complaints of the beef checkoff. Why would we bring a failed program to organic operations?

“Since the 1980’s, Missouri cattle producers have been paying over $2 million per year in the mandatory federal beef check off tax and are now faced with the threat of millions more of their hard-earned dollars going to a new state check-off. And it is definitely not clear that we have gotten our money’s worth. Since 1985, when the beef check off was passed by Congress, the U.S. has lost 35,000 feed lots, the per capita consumption of beef has dropped by 28% (from 79.2 pounds to 57.4 pounds) and Missouri has lost 40% of our beef producers. The vast majority of current check off dollars paid by cattle producers ends up in the coffers of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). And, unfortunately, the NCBA consistently supports positions that benefit meatpackers at the expense of independent cattle producers. NCBA opposes COOL (Country of Origin Labeling) and enforcement of anti-trust laws, and even the Farm Bill; but they support Packer Ownership of Livestock and giving Fast-Track Trade Authority to the President. Mandatory check-offs have proven to be unaccountable to producers, and once they are put into place are virtually impossible to stop.”
– Rhonda Perry, Missouri Rural Crisis Center

Independent family beef farmers and ranchers are unsatisfied with their USDA mandatory beef checkoff.   Why would we include a failed USDA program into the organic relm?  In March 2015, 32 organizations sent a letter to Secretary Vilsack denouncing the department for failing to respond to the Beef Checkoff Program’s most offensive and glaring conflicts of interest.  “…the Federation with veto power and weighted approval authority over checkoff applications is housed, administered, owned and controlled by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), which is the principal financial benefactor of the Federation’s approval decisions. Second, the NCBA materially strengthens its political advocacy effectiveness by
i) using checkoff funds to offset, if not directly subsidize, its organization’s overall administrative costs such as salaries, expenses and travel and
ii) aligning itself under the mantle of the Beef Checkoff Program to assume the program’s attendant positive brand identification that then accords NCBA a distinct lobbying advantage on Capitol Hill and in the countryside.”

These organizations are working hard to convince Secretary Vilsack to “immediately initiate the following actions to eliminate the conflicts of interest currently plaguing the Beef Checkoff Program and to restore its purpose of being an equal and nonideological benefit to all producers:
1. Enforce the prohibition against conflicts of interest in contracting and all other decisionmaking operations of the Beef Checkoff Program. Such enforcement would include, for example, a prohibition against any member of the Beef Promotion Operating Committee voting to award checkoff funds to any private organization of which the member is personally affiliated.
2. Enforce a prohibition against the Beef Checkoff Program contracting with organizations that engage in policy-oriented activities, including influencing governmental action, policy or elections.
3. Building on the recommendation in your letter of May 17, 2010, require a legally independent Federation, without affiliation to NCBA or any other private entity.”