October 15, 2015
For Immediate Release:
Today, before a federal judge in the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC, and the attorneys for OCM, OIG reconfirmed their commitment to produce thousands of documents related to the 2013-2014 audit report. This assurance was issued today during a status hearing a little more than a year after the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) filed a complaint for injunctive relief in U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia demanding the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Agriculture make a final determination and release all required records related to a 2013 FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request regarding Beef Checkoff audit reports.
The legal action stems from a long struggle by OCM to obtain the truth about an OIG Beef Checkoff audit begun in February 2011. The audit was presumably prompted by the disturbing findings of a Clifton Gunderson Accounting Firm performance review commissioned by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. After examining the equivalent of a mere nine days of activity, irregularities were uncovered which resulted in NCBA having to return more than $200,000. These numerous irregularities included improper payment for such things as spousal travel and private loans.
More than two years after beginning its investigation–and after generating more than 3,000 pages of report drafts–OIG released a scant, seventeen-page report that appeared wholly irreconcilable with the Clifton Gunderson findings. Remarkably and to the contrary, it stated; “The Office of Inspector General (OIG) determined that the relationships between the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board (beef board) and other industry-related organizations…complied with legislation,” This shocking statement was later removed from the report without explanation.
Unaddressed in the report was the glaring and fundamental conflict of interest created by NCBA having iron-fisted control of the Checkoff contract awarding process and using this control to consistently award more than 90% of the contracts to itself.
“As I have said before, there is no doubt that NCBA has been empowered by the some $50 million it has received annually for two decades now, and has used its resulting influence to promote the interests of global meat packers and big retailers against the interests of Checkoff-paying cattlemen,” explained Fred Stokes, OCM member. “Today, we are pleased that the court continues to monitor the progress of our quest for the truth,” he concluded.
Attorneys for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) filed the complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. HSUS attorneys are providing representation in furtherance of their work to reform the Beef Checkoff on behalf of organizations like OCM and to prevent misuses of the program for activities detrimental to animal welfare.
For a copy of the official complaint and or media inquiries, contact: