The Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) is holding an election October 2-November 1, 2017 to increase the beef checkoff tax by $1 each time cattle are sold. Last year, we found out that $2.6 million of Oklahoma cattle producers’ checkoff tax dollars had been stolen by a crook at the Oklahoma Beef Council. This year, they are coming back for even more and aiming to double the beef checkoff tax on Oklahoma ranchers by imposing an additional $3 million in taxes. Since the revenue would go to the Oklahoma Beef Council, this would triple the amount of money managed by the folks who didn’t miss the $2.6 million which was stolen. Instead of demanding a public explanation and accountability, Oklahoma’s major farm organizations are telling ranchers to throw good money after bad.
The 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 and corporations from other states can vote – “out-of-state producers can vote.” Even foreign corporations like Brazil’s JBS can vote as long as they plan to sell cattle in Oklahoma.
In order to bring the Oklahoma beef checkoff tax increase to a statewide referendum, the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) launched a petition drive in 2015. It took OCA nearly two years to collect their stated requirement of 5,100 signatures to bring the issue to a statewide vote this Fall. OCA cleared their stated signature requirement by only 77 signatures. The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry verified all the submitted petition signatures without throwing a single one out, even though many petitions do not include the basic minimum requirements to be deemed sufficient.
Due to these and other irregularities in the petition and referendum process, Oklahoma members of the Organization for Competitive Markets and R-CALF USA joined together to file with the Oklahoma Supreme Court an application for original jurisdiction requesting the court prohibit the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry from certifying the Oklahoma beef checkoff program referendum.
It has also been discovered that the Oklahoma Beef Council and Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association are using the beef checkoff trademark to influence the vote. OCM has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General, urging them to put a stop to this illegal activity.
Until they clean up their act, the Oklahoma Beef Council should not receive one more dollar of the hard-earned tax money of Oklahoma’s cattle producers.
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