December 19, 2014 Billings, Mont. – In an interview with DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack reportedly announced that he was abandoning his plans to seek reforms to the national Beef Checkoff Program. Vilsack had issued a formal notice in the Federal Register on November 10, 2014, seeking public comments on how those reforms should look. The notice received 1,587 public comments by the December 10, 2014 deadline.
According to the DTN report, Vilsack criticized U.S. cattle producers for failing to agree on how the national Beef Checkoff Program should be reformed and he claimed that everyone in the industry agrees that the national Beef Checkoff Program needs more money.
“Secretary Vilsack is wrong to blame U.S. cattle producers for his failure to reform the beef checkoff program and his claim that everyone in the industry wants to increase the checkoff fee is baseless,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.
R-CALF USA submitted comprehensive comments in response to Vilsack’s notice that refute Vilsack’s claim that the industry agrees that more money is needed for the checkoff. The group’s comments state that after a decade of inaction by USDA to correct the abuses, corruption and conflicts of interest that pervade the current national Beef Checkoff Program, members of R-CALF USA, which is the nation’s largest producer-only cattle trade organization, voted overwhelmingly to urge Congress to repeal the program.
“The systemic problems within the beef checkoff are within the Secretary’s purview as evidenced by at least two OIG (Office of Inspector General) reports that found the Secretary was not properly overseeing the national Beef Checkoff Program and, as a result, it is not possible to determine if the millions of dollars collected by the checkoff program each year are being spent properly,” Bullard added.
A 2010 independent audit report revealed that the checkoff program’s primary contractor, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), misappropriated over $216,000, which the NCBA was later forced to pay back.
“The Secretary is responsible for ensuring that the mandatory assessments collected from U.S. cattle producers are being properly spent and he has failed his responsibility. Blaming hard working U.S. cattle producers for that failure is disgraceful, as is pulling baseless facts out of thin air,” concluded Bullard.
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R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is the largest producer-only cattle trade association in the United States. It 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.