Billings, MT -- In a recent complaint sent to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Inspector General Phyllis Fong, R-CALF USA seeks to confirm the accuracy of a news article indicating that an officer of the Beef Checkoff Program's Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB) also is an officer of an organization that receives Beef Checkoff Program funding.
"If our information is correct, this is an outrageous conflict of interest," R-CALF USA wrote in its complaint.
The complaint explained that a November 19 news article stated that Weldon Wynn, vice chair of the CBB, had been elected vice chairman of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, an organization that R-CALF USA claims already receives funding from the Beef Checkoff Program.
The complaint alleges that the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) also is seeking a 2013 grant in the amount of $216,958 from the Beef Checkoff Program through the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA).
The complaint states it would be unconscionable for USDA to tolerate a CBB appointee that serves in a fiduciary capacity for an organization that is a recipient of Beef Checkoff Program funds.
"It would be equally unconscionable if USDA does not provide even rudimentary oversight over the Beef Checkoff Program to ensure that such a blatant conflict of interest does not occur.
"If our information is correct and Weldon Wynn serves both to decide who is to receive Beef Checkoff Program funds (in his official capacity as a CBB officer) as well as to benefit directly from his own decisions (by directly representing the interests of Checkoff funds recipient USFRA), then this is further evidence of the ongoing, insidious and systemic corruption within the Beef Checkoff Program that USDA has chosen not to address.
"Please confirm whether or not USDA is allowing a CBB official to also represent the interests of a Beef Checkoff Program fund recipient," the complaint concludes.
In 2011 R-CALF USA filed an earlier complaint regarding a conflict of interest in the Beef Checkoff Program after it learned that the Deputy Administrator for the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, Craig Morris, Ph.D., who oversaw the Beef Checkoff Program, was then listed as a current board member for the International Stockmen's Education Foundation, an organization like the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance that receives funding from the Beef Checkoff Program.
"As far as we know the only action USDA took in response to our 2011 complaint was to remove Dr. Morris from the board of directors of the International Stockmen's Education Foundation," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.
"We are becoming increasingly frustrated with the recalcitrance of the USDA that knows full well there is deep-rooted corruption within the Beef Checkoff Program but refuses to do anything about it to protect cattle-producer contributions. All we know to do under these circumstances is to keep urging them to do what is right," Bullard added.
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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 http://www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.