R-CALF USA seeks investigation into possible misuse of checkoff program funds
In a letter sent today to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Inspector General Phyllis Fong, R-CALF USA requested an investigation to determine the legality of using cattle-producer contributions mandated by the U.S. beef checkoff program to help fast-food restaurateur Wendy’s to promote and advertise “North American beef.”
R-CALF USA’s letter states that the Montana Beef Council maintains an advertisement on its website promoting and advertising Wendy’s use of “100% pure North American beef.” In addition, the group’s complaint cites a newspaper article that states that $5,000 obtained from the “$1-per-head beef check-off fee” will be used to pay for the “North American beef” promotional campaign.
According to R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard, United States cattle producers are not allowed to use beef checkoff program funds to promote or advertise beef based on where it originated. He said that is why Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced legislation in Congress in 2008 to specifically allow such funds to be used to promote beef from animals born and raised in the United States. Tester’s legislation did not pass.
R-CALF USA’s complaint states that “if U.S. cattle producers are prohibited from using Beef Checkoff Program funds to promote their beef that is derived from cattle exclusively born, raised, and slaughtered in the United States, then it is patently unlawful for Beef Checkoff Program funds to be used to promote their competitors’ beef – beef from cattle that were not born, raised and slaughtered in the United States.”
The group’s complaint continues: “R-CALF USA strenuously objects to the use of the term “North American beef” and views it as an affront to the hundreds of thousands of family farmers and ranchers who would prefer that restaurant establishments like Wendy’s promote their exclusively United States product and not the products of their foreign competitors in Canada and Mexico.
“R-CALF USA supports an amendment to the Beef Checkoff Program that would allow U.S. farmers and ranchers to promote their beef derived from cattle exclusively born and raised in the United States. But, until such an amendment is implemented, their hard-earned, mandatory contributions to the Beef Checkoff Program must not be used to promote their competitors’ beef.
“We urge you to investigate our complaint and if you find that Beef Checkoff Program funds are being unlawfully expended, we ask that you prosecute the perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law,” concludes the complaint.