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R-CALF USA Calls OIG Checkoff Audit a Colossal Whitewash

April 8, 2013 Billings, Mont. – In a formal complaint sent Friday to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Inspector General Phyllis Fong, R-CALF USA charged that the audit report released last week by the USDA Office of Inspector General (OIG) concerning the beef checkoff program is a “colossal whitewash of monumental proportions.” 

The OIG report exemplifies the despicable cronyism that pervades the relationship between the USDA and the meatpacker lobby, which latter group is represented in the OIG report by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). The findings and conclusions contained in the scant, 17-page OIG report are incongruent and render both USDA and the OIG untrustworthy and without credibility,” R-CALF USA wrote in its complaint

The group backed up its strong charges with numerous examples.   

In response to the OIG’s conclusion that the NCBA had properly expended all checkoff funds despite the OIG’s acknowledgement that the NCBA had miscoded and improperly submitted expenses totaling $216,944 to the beef checkoff fund, R-CALF USA wrote: 

“Only within an agency fraught with corruption and cronyism can a conclusive finding that the NCBA had improperly charged the beef checkoff fund hundreds of thousands of dollars nevertheless result in a conclusion by USDA that NCBA is guilty of no wrong doing. The agency’s pronouncement that such is the case defies any semblance of logic, impartiality and credibility.” 

After citing two more examples of how the OIG’s conclusions were at odds with its findings, the group further charged that the report was “woefully incomplete.” 

The complaint alleges the OIG failed to even mention the widely known allegation by the past chairman of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) that the NCBA had misappropriated an additional $39,000. The group wrote that this oversight “is classic evidence of agency capture and agency cronyism.” 

Also alleged in the complaint is the OIG’s failure to address the NCBA’s improper practice of subsidizing its officer travel by charging one-half of such travel to the checkoff program even if the travel involved efforts to influence policy. 

In conclusion, R-CALF USA urged the two officials to denounce the OIG report as a colossal political sham and whitewash; to permanently suspend the NCBA’s eligibility as a checkoff contractor; to require a complete separation between the NCBA and the Federation of State Beef Councils; to clarify that no lobbying group is eligible to contract for beef checkoff funds; and, to amend the beef checkoff program so the CBB can contract directly to carry out beef checkoff programs. 

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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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                            This page was last updated on Monday, April 08, 2013.