NFU Urges Separation of Policy Organizations and Beef Checkoff Program

Beef Checkoff situation has many stakeholders asking USDA to step in.

Published on: Jul 15, 2011

National Farmers Union has sent a letter to the Cattlemen's Beef Board and the USDA urging for a complete separation of policy organizations and checkoff program between the CBB and National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

"NFU has been very public with its support of a complete separation of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the Beef Checkoff Program," said NFU President Roger Johnson. "It is impossible to build a firewall strong enough when you have one organization that picks the members of the committees that make all of the funding decisions for the checkoff and are also involved in program evaluations. The ongoing firewall breaches are no longer allegations, but have been proven in a compliance audit review that has uncovered multiple financial irregularities and misappropriations of checkoff funds."

The departure of a second top Beef Board official in as many weeks has reinforced the call for action. NFU Vice President of Governmental Regulations Chandler Goule says that the situation around the Beef Checkoff seems to get worse every day.

"It is time for the USDA to step in, they are the agency that is the regulatory body over this program, before the checkoff completely loses all its integrity to where producers truly do not want to participate in it whatsoever," Goule said. "It is time for them to take some action. There is so much distrust and I would say anger ever within the industry."

Earlier this week, Tom Jones turned in his resignation as chairman of the Beef Board, two weeks after CEO Tom Ramey stepped down following his admission that he eavesdropped on conference calls organized by NCBA.

In a letter to Beef Board members Jones made it clear that his running battle with NCBA over checkoff governance issues was a factor in his decision to quit. He described the $78 million a year beef promotion and research program as "broken" and put the blame squarely on NCBA. Jones asserted that some board members put their allegiance to their chosen association before their oath of obligation to serve all producers who pay the checkoff.

NCBA President Bill Donald said in a statement this week the largest U.S. cattle organization remains optimistic that the checkoff can move forward to serve the men and women that invest in it.