Ohio Farmers Union: Ohio Beef Checkoff management practices in need of reform
February 15, 2018
Columbus, OH – Today, the Organization for Competitive Markets and Ohio Farmers Union released a briefing paper outlining how federal and state funds are being used to prop up and fund a trade and lobbying entity. The Ohio Beef Council, an agency of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, is funneling taxpayer dollars through payroll expenses and rental costs to fund the trade and lobbying group, Ohio Cattlemen's Association. Further, the state agency raises funds for the Ohio Cattlemen's Association Political Action Committee (PAC) to influence elections and legislation. It also makes annual cash payments of at least $14,000 per year to the national trade and lobbying group, National Cattlemen's Beef Association. As set out in the new briefing paper, the state-supported funding is in violation of both state and federal law.
Joe Logan, President of Ohio Farmers Union, said, "For years we have shared these concerns, but they have only fallen on deaf ears at the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Last month at our Ohio Farmers Union convention, we passed a resolution to put a stop to these taxpayer abuses. We can only hope, based on the evidence in the briefing paper, others in our government will hear the cry of Ohio's cattle producers and answer the call to clean up this mess."
Joe Maxwell, Executive Director of Organization for Competitive Markets, said, "It is just unimaginable that the state of Ohio is allowing this taxpayer abuse. A large portion of these funds are federal tax dollars collected by this state agency. The state has a responsibility to administer these federally mandated funds, no differently than it does any other federal funds it receives. Ohio's family farmers deserve no less."
The new briefing paper outlines the following taxpayer abuses and seeks the following government action:
Department of Agriculture agency Ohio Beef Council employees go to work every day for the Ohio Cattlemen's Association, a state trade and lobbying organization.
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State and federal funds are offsetting the organizational overhead costs for the Ohio Cattlemen's Association.
The Ohio Beef Council promotes and collects donations for the Ohio Cattlemen's Association's Political Action Committee (PAC).
State and federal funds are being directly contributed to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, a national trade and lobbying organization.
The only reports available to the cattle producers who pay the mandatory fees are self-reports by the Ohio Beef Council. There is a lack of taxpayer transparency on how the checkoff funds are being expended.
The state and federal checkoff funds are not appropriated by the legislature nor audited by the state auditor, leaving little if any government oversight of the mandatory checkoff fees.
Federal and state checkoff funds should be paid directly to the appropriate federal or state treasury and then be audited by the corresponding federal or state auditing agency.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture should immediately segregate all activity between the Ohio Beef Council and the Ohio Cattlemen's Association. Policy should be established that clearly outlines:
No state employee should report to a lobbying entity office for work.
No state or federal funds should be used directly or indirectly to offset a lobbying entity's overhead costs to include office rent, equipment costs, salaries or any incidental costs incurred by the lobbying entity.
All government funds should be expended pursuant to state standard contracting processes.
–Organization for Competitive Markets and Ohio Farmers Union