A former Wall Street trader, NCBA officials behind smear campaign targeting R-CALF USA
Billings, Mont. – Proclaiming itself the freedom watchdog for American agriculture, the obscure nonprofit organization known as the Agribusiness Freedom Foundation (AFF) has devoted considerable resources over the past several years attempting to smear the reputation of R-CALF USA and its cattle-producing members. Most recently, the AFF began publishing a five-part series titled “Traitors in our Midst,” which attempts to vilify R-CALF USA.
Particularly, the seemingly independent AFF series implies that R-CALF USA is engaged in “sabotage, disloyalty and industry treason” because of the group’s ongoing legal efforts to reform the national beef checkoff program. The AFF also scorns R-CALF USA for supporting mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) and it accuses the group of consorting with groups opposed to animal agriculture and of attacking various men and women involved in the cattle industry. It also misrepresents R-CALF USA by claiming it opposes both beef and cattle imports and beef and cattle exports while its members “greedily grab all the money generated by trade,” and it claims R-CALF USA is bringing in “legal hit men” to do its organizational bidding.
Despite the frequency of such abrasive accusations that are generally deemed indecent and inappropriate by mainstream organizations, the AFF series found its way into publications sympathetic to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), an organization often diametrically opposed to policy positions advocated by R-CALF USA. The Florida Cattlemen and Livestock Journal and the Nebraska Cattleman magazine are examples of NCBA-affiliated publications that are disseminating the AFF’s attacks on R-CALF USA.
A public document search reveals that the AFF has only one employee: Steve Dittmer, who serves as the group’s executive vice president. The group also has three board members who serve as Dittmer’s employer. Unsurprisingly, Dittmer’s three employers include NCBA Past President Steve Foglesong; NCBA Executive Committee Member Jon Means whose wife, Jackie, serves as a board member of the national beef checkoff program’s Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB); and Jon Maddux, a former trader for Goldman Sachs of New York and former president of Cattle-Fax, which is listed on the NCBA’s website as one of its four industry organizations and which shares a Colorado office building with the NCBA.
“We are disappointed to learn that the baseless and venomous attacks on R-CALF USA’s thousands of cattle farmer- and rancher-members are not coming from some obscure, independent group; but rather, they are coming from a front organization that is directed by officials at the highest levels of the NCBA,” commented R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.
“In other words, the NCBA is laundering its vicious attacks against R-CALF USA and R-CALF USA’s members through a shell corporation, which enables it to deceive its own membership and affiliates into believing that the attacks are coming from some independent source. This is the very definition of a swamp that needs draining.
“We won’t reciprocate by stooping to such an embarrassingly low level but we hope that respectable cattlemen within the NCBA will take decisive action to put an end to their organization’s covert involvement in such a despicable charade. This type of hateful deception should be beneath us all,” concluded Bullard.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News