R-CALF: Investigate misuse of beef checkoff funds | TSLN.com

R-CALF: Investigate misuse of beef checkoff funds

WASHINGTON, DC – On Jan. 17, 2011, R-CALF USA sent a formal request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to request that a proposed resolution between the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) that is designed to absolve NCBA of its misuse of Beef Checkoff dollars be rejected. Further, R-CALF USA requested that NCBA’s contract with CBB be suspended, pending a full and complete investigation into NCBA’s misuse of Checkoff money.

CBB and NCBA have apparently agreed to an arrangement in which NCBA would pay CBB $216,944 for its improprieties initially identified by Clifton Gunderson in a July 2010 compliance review. Both organizations are asking USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to approve this agreement. The compliance review covered only a sample of actual financial transactions.

“NCBA’s improper expenditures of $216,944 are intolerable, and these serious violations represent not only disrespect and disdain by NCBA for its legal obligations to the Checkoff, but also to the hundreds of thousands of independent U.S. cattle producers required to pay into the Checkoff,” said R-CALF USA Checkoff Committee Chair Joel Gill. “Many cattle producers believe USDA is subsidizing NCBA’s political and policy agenda with Checkoff dollars. There are deep concerns that CBB has decided not to demand reimbursement for NCBA policy activities within its final resolution, even when all expenses were found to have been charged to the Checkoff.”

In documents that support the agreement between CBB and NCBA, CBB identifies NCBA actions that violate the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985 (the Act), the Beef Promotion and Research Order (the Order), and the contract between NCBA and the Beef Promotion Operating Committee (BPOC). The documents reveal that NCBA used thousands of Checkoff dollars to: 1) pay legal fees to maintain NCBA; 2) pay NCBA’s credit card fees; 3) pay employee’s time for non-Checkoff activities; 4) pay for employees to participate in NCBA’s charity golf tournament; 5) pay for spouses’ travel; 6) pay for meetings, travel and speaker costs for non-Checkoff activities; and, 7) pay for expenses incurred by NCBA’s policy division, which is the non-Checkoff division that advances the organization’s political and policy objectives.

“If AMS approves the joint agreement between CBB and NCBA, it would confirm concerns that subsidization is ongoing and would make it appear that NCBA’s repayment of $216,944 for its misuse of Checkoff funds was actually a no-interest bearing loan to NCBA by the Checkoff for NCBA’s several improper expenditures,” Gill pointed out.

“NCBA has violated the trust of every U.S. cattle producer required to pay into the Checkoff by committing numerous wrongful and unlawful acts of charging the Checkoff for improper and ineligible activities, and we urge USDA and DOJ to immediately suspend NCBA’s eligibility to contract with CBB until a comprehensive investigation has been conducted and the findings reviewed,” he emphasized.

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