WASHINGTON – The US District Court for the District of Columbia recently granted the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) intervenor status in a lawsuit over the release of documents related to an audit of the beef checkoff program. NCBA is now a defendant-intervenor in the case.

But the organization’s role is limited to “…to reviewing documents and records for NCBA’s confidential and proprietary business information and objecting to the production of documents and records to OCM exclusively on the basis that those documents and records contain NCBA’s confidential and proprietary business information…”

The Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), filed a lawsuit in 2014 seeking the release of documents generated during an audit of the beef checkoff by the Office of the Inspector General for the US Dept. of Agriculture. OCM requested the documents in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

In September, the NCBA asked the US District Court for the District of Columbia to grant NCBA intervenor status, which would allow the organization to become directly involved in the lawsuit over the OIG documents. But a federal court restricted the association’s participation in the lawsuit.

Fred Stokes, OCM board member, applauded the order. He said in a statement “We are not seeking proprietary information, but we sure are demanding to see how our checkoff funds have been spent by NCBA, who we feel is responsible for hiding the truth from cattle producers. It’s our money; it’s our right to know.”

NCBA has characterized the lawsuit as a divide-and-conquer tactic by animal welfare activists aimed at weakening the beef industry and the checkoff program.

The case is Organization for Competitive Markets v. Office of Inspector General, United States Department of Agriculture and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association; case No. 1:14-cv-01902-EGS.