USDA faces lawsuit over Beef Checkoff records

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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LINCOLN, Neb. – The Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) wants the Office of the Inspector General for the US Department of Agriculture to make a final determination on the release of all records regarding Beef Checkoff audit reports.

The Humane Society of the United States filed a complaint for injunctive relief in the US District Court for the District of Columbia. HSUS and OCM allege among other things that the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association was receiving preferential treatment by receiving a majority of checkoff funded projects.

The records are related to a 2013 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. OCM said the OIG acknowledged finding more than 10,000 pages of information, but OCM received less than 1,000 "relatively innocuous, heavily redacted pages" after 18 months and multiple demands by OCM for all of the documents.

“There is no doubt that NCBA has been empowered by the some $50 million it has received annually for two decades now, and has used its resulting influence to promote the interests of global meat packers and big retailers against the interests of Checkoff-paying cattlemen,” said Fred Stokes, OCM board member. “It’s now time to bring this regretful affair to light,” explained Stokes. “OCM is confident the records we have requested will clearly demonstrate that NCBA has played fast and loose with US cattlemen’s money.”

In April 2013, the OIG released the results of its audit which 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."
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