On November 13, 2018, Drovers issued a poll asking the question, “Do you believe the Beef Checkoff is helping to stimulate beef demand and support your cattle business?” Two days later, the polling showed that 70% of respondents voted no. Even more telling were the more than 50 comments on the poll, which were removed from Drovers’ website that afternoon. However, screenshots of the deleted comments were preserved. See all of the deleted comments here. Drovers then closed out the poll with 54% of cattle producers flatly rejecting the notion that the checkoff was helpful to their farms and ranches.
The overwhelming majority of Drovers’ commenters stated that it is not the Beef Checkoff Program they opposed but rather how it is being administered amidst concerns that the program’s largest contractor, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), is mismanaging the lion’s share of the beef checkoff funds.
These are the same sentiments that Organization for Competitive Markets has held for nearly a decade since a 2010 audit of the equivalent of nine days of beef checkoff spending found more than $200,000 in wrongdoing by NCBA, including the use of checkoff dollars to fuel prohibited lobbying activity. The four-year legal battle OCM has been waging over USDA’s suppression of public checkoff audit documents and financials has moved to the critical phase of summary judgement and we expect the court to force USDA to release checkoff documents in Spring 2019.
OCM has strongly held the belief that without full transparency, accountability, and the prohibition of lobbying organizations from being contracted, the program will continue to breed mistrust and resentment in the cattle industry while failing to reach its full potential to work for the hardworking cattle producers who are mandated to pay into the program.
OCM supports a fair and transparent Beef Checkoff Program. We also fully understand that if the Federation, which is now a division of NCBA and by law controls which organization has a right to be a contractor and receive beef checkoff funds, is not separated from NCBA, the next time a poll is conducted the overwhelming sentiment might be to simply end the beef checkoff program. This would be a no-win situation for all.
We strongly agree with the sentiment this poll confirms: The beef checkoff should benefit U.S. cattle producers, not multinational meat packers and their trade and lobbying organizations. We deserve transparency and accountability. Add your name below to join the fight.