Cattlemen question NCBA's lobbying efforts

By Spencer Chase

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WASHINGTON, July 12, 2016 - The U.S. Cattlemen's Association has sent a letter to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association asking why the organization lobbied for rules that would have limited Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to checkoff organizations.

The letter notes that when NCBA lobbied for the changes through the Fiscal 2017 appropriations process, the organization should have consulted the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group (BCEWG), a group of industry organizations that was seeking to make changes to the beef checkoff, primarily through an increased dollar to the $1 per head assessment on cattle sold in the U.S.

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The effort to increase the assessment has stalled, but USCA says NCBA should talk to the other organizations in the BCEWG before lobbying for changes that could impact the checkoff.

“A random lobbying effort to attach report language in the FY2017 funding bill is not a constructive path forward,” USCA President Danni Beer said in a letter to NCBA CEO Kendal Frazier. “This approach does not place Beef Checkoff stakeholders in a positive light, rather, it adds additional and unwarranted scrutiny from groups already in opposition and antagonistic towards the program.”

The language USCA is referring to would have prevented FOIA requests from probing into communications of checkoff employees. Communications between government and checkoff employees still would have been subject to FOIA requests, but only because of the correspondence with the government. The change was attached to the House agriculture spending bill as report language, but has yet to be considered by the full House after passing through the Appropriations Committee.

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In all, eight groups are in the BCEWG: NCBA, USCA, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American National CattleWomen, the Livestock Marketing Association, the Meat Import Council of America, the National Livestock Producers Association and the National Milk Producers Federation. The National Farmers Union was previously in the BCEWG before deciding to leave, citing frustration with the group's lack of progress and other factors.

NCBA did not respond to a request to comment on this letter.

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