A Word on Farm Law and Policy
By Harlan Hentges
A $1.00 tax is imposed every time cattle are sold. This is the “Beef Checkoff” imposed by federal law. Oklahoma ranchers pay about $3 million per year. Half goes to the Oklahoma Beef Council (OBC), and half goes to the national Cattlemen’s Beef Board. OBC says the money is used to make “a positive difference for Oklahoma’s farming and ranching families” and for “strengthening consumer trust.”
Last year, it was discovered that $2.6 million was embezzled by OBC’s bookkeeper, who from 2009 to 2016, allegedly wrote 790 fraudulent checks to fund her “children’s clothing boutique.” She admitted to embezzlement and forgery.
OBC has not explained, at least not publicly, why no one noticed. OBC has only 3 employees, an executive director, bookkeeper and event coordinator and a 14-member board of directors. Nobody noticed? Instead of demanding a public explanation and accountability, Oklahoma’s major farm organizations are telling ranchers to throw good money after bad.
Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association (OCA), with approval of Oklahoma’s Agriculture Commissioner, is holding an election on November 1, to add another $1 tax each time cattle are sold. Since the revenue would go to the Oklahoma Beef Council, this would triple the amount of money managed by folks who didn’t miss $2.6 million.
The November 1 election is very unusual. Children can vote — “any beef producer, regardless of age is eligible to vote.” Corporations can vote – “a producer may be either an individual or a legal business entity.” People from other states can vote – “out-of-state producers can vote.”
Before any ranchers (including children, corporations, and non-Okies) vote to give an additional $3 million per year to OBC, perhaps they should demand some answers. Why do major farm organizations who have always opposed tax increases, want to double a tax on cattle sales? Why do agricultural leaders who have fought waste and corruption, now want to triple funding for an organization that let $2.6 million slip through the cracks? While we must show picture identification to vote, why is the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association going to let children, corporations and non-Oklahomans vote?
The vote is to be held on November 1, 2017 at any Oklahoma county extension office during normal business hours. Mail-in ballots are available from October 2-20, 2017 by calling 405-235-4391 or emailing [email protected] and must be postmarked by October 27, 2017.
Disclaimer: This article is informational purposes only and not for providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this article or e-mail does not create an attorney-client relationship between Hentges & Associates, PLLC or Harlan Hentges and the user or browser.