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R-CALF USA Calls USDA Proposal to Reform Beef Checkoff Program Far too Little and Far too Late

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Billings, Mont. -- In comments submitted last week to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) regarding the agency's proposed rule to expand the scope of organizations eligible to contract with the Beef Checkoff Program, R-CALF USA stated the proposal was far too little and far too late "to achieve any meaningful improvement to the Beef Checkoff Program.

"In fact, USDA's overly simplistic proposal is a hollow and disingenuous gesture in light of the horrendous mismanagement and misappropriation of producer contributions that NCBA (National Cattlemen's Beef Association) is known to have committed and for which USDA remains ominously passive and silent," the group stated.

In its four-page comment, R-CALF USA urged USDA to reinstate a previously proposed eligibility requirement that only organizations that have a majority of cattle producers on their board of directors can contract to receive Beef Checkoff Program funds.

"A requirement that the cattle producer-financed Beef Checkoff Program awards contract only to cattle producer-controlled organizations could not, in any way, have led to a worse outcome than exists today," stated the group.

R-CALF USA's major request to USDA was to ask the agency to immediately reopen the public comment period for the proposed rule after the May 1, 2012, deadline and to propose additional amendments to the Beef Checkoff Program.

As an example of the type of additional amendments that R-CALF USA would like the agency to propose, the group wrote:

"An obvious first step would be for USDA to immediately require the full and complete separation of the Federation (Federation of State Beef Councils) from the NCBA."

The group also called the practice by the Federation to charge state beef councils hundreds of thousands of dollars for the privilege of having a seat on the Federation a "pay-to-play" scheme that has all the elements of a sophisticated money laundering scheme:

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"It siphons large sums of producer contributions that are intended to be used for beef promotion and research directly to the NCBA-controlled Federation, where it is then funneled indirectly to the NCBA."

In its conclusion, R-CALF USA wrote: "Unless USDA has developed, or intends to develop, an additional strategy in addition to its current proposal to genuinely level the competitive playing field between the NCBA/Federation and any other eligible organization, the proposed rule will do little, if anything, to restore the integrity of the Beef Checkoff Program."  

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R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com   or, call 406-252-2516.   

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R-CALF USA, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on domestic and international trade and marketing issues. R-CALF USA, a national, non-profit organization, is dedicated (more...)
 

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