USDA audit clears beef checkoff program

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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WASHINGTON – A recent audit from the USDA's Office of the Inspector General found no wrongdoing in the $52 million beef checkoff program.

"The Office of Inspector General (OIG) determined that the relationships between the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board (beef board) and other industry-related organizations, including the beef board’s primary contractor, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), complied with legislation," the OIG said in its report. "We also determined that the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) needs to strengthen its procedures for providing oversight to the beef research and promotion program."

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) filed a lawsuit seeking a permanent injunction against the NCBA using beef checkoff funds as a contractor. The groups alleged among other things that the NCBA was receiving preferential treatment by receiving a majority of checkoff funded projects.

But OIG auditors determined that assessed funds were collected, distributed, and expended in accordance with federal laws.

"Our audit also addressed concerns and specific allegations that beef checkoff funds may have been misused," the OIG report stated. "We found no evidence to support that the board’s activities in those areas did not comply with legislation, and AMS guidelines and policies."

In a statement, Weldon Wynn, Cattlemen's Beef Board chairman, said the OIG audit validated the effectiveness of CBB’s systems and processes to safeguard industry's investments into the checkoff program.

“Even with OIG’s confirmation that the Beef Board’s systems of oversight of funds are robust and effective and that its relationships with checkoff contractors are in compliance, the Beef Board maintains a mission toward continual improvement in our responsibility to producers,” Wynn said. “Since 2010, for example, CBB has operated under an intensified review and verification process, along with expanded and specific guidelines for contractors.

“In addition, CBB now requires contractors to provide additional information about implementation costs as they prepare funding requests, thus providing decision-makers with a more detailed understanding of project costs before approving them.”

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