May 6, 2014 Billings, Mont. – Last February R-CALF USA submitted a complaint to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack alleging unlawful use of U.S. beef checkoff program dollars in advertisements that improperly encouraged consumption of “North American Beef.”
The complaint alleged that at least $5,000 dollars collected from cattle producers under the federal government’s mandatory beef checkoff program was used to help fast-food restaurateur Wendy’s promote and advertise “North American Beef.”
In response to the group’s complaint, USDA Under Secretary Edward Avalos decided that using beef checkoff program funds to pay for promotional advertisements featuring “North American beef” complies with the beef checkoff program because he viewed the advertisements as referencing, not promoting, North American beef.
R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard called USDA’s decision ridiculous.
The advertisements funded by producer checkoff dollars stated, “Wendy’s serves 100% pure North American beef that is always fresh and never frozen.”
Bullard said USDA’s decision simply shows USDA is afraid to even challenge the meatpackers and retailers that are continually exploiting U.S. cattle producers by using the producers’ own dollars to encourage consumption of their competitor’s products.
“Why should U.S. producers be forced to pay for advertisements that encourage the consumption of foreign beef?” asked Bullard.
The USDA prohibits U.S. cattle producers from using their beef checkoff funds to promote and advertise their USA beef – beef that is born, raised and slaughtered in the United States.
“This is truly an outrageous decision as USDA does not even have a definition for “North American beef,” Bullard said adding, “Central America and the Islands of the Caribbean Sea are generally considered a part of North America.
“USDA is sanctioning consumer deception by approving government-mandated advertisements that mislead consumers into believing that their Wendy’s burger may have originated in El Salvador or Panama.
“This type of outrageous decision is what happens when federal agencies like USDA are captured and controlled by the very industries they are supposed to regulate,” Bullard concluded.
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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.