USDA audit finds no wrongdoing in beef checkoff program

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

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WASHINGTON, April 3, 2013 - Critics of the close relationship between National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) and the Beef Board will be disappointed by the findings of a new USDA Inspector General's report, which finds the two organizations are carrying out the $52 million beef checkoff program according to the law and USDA regulations.

 Together we can feed the Bees

“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,” the report's authors wrote. OIG also “found no evidence” to support “specific allegations that beef checkoff funds may have been misused.”

“We are proud to receive this validation of the effectiveness of our systems and processes to safeguard producer and importer investments into the Beef Checkoff Program,” the Beef Board said in a statement. “The bottom line: Producers and importers can be assured by the OIG report and the Beef Board's mission of continual improvement that our checkoff dollars are being invested appropriately and effectively.”

The National Farmers Union also praised the report's outcome, though the group has been critical of Beef Board operations in the past.  “It is important that USDA periodically and randomly conduct audits to mandatory programs,” NFU said in a statement. “We are pleased that the audit on the CBB has shown that the program has operated within the boundaries of the law. NFU has been working with the beef industry group in an effort to improve the checkoff's governance so that it is more flexible to adapt to changing demographics and markets and better serve U.S. cattle producers.”

Though the report was good news for the beef board, it did include a number of recommendations for USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service. The audit recommended AMS “implement oversight procedures specific to the beef board [and] perform management reviews of the beef program.”

The report also recommended the Beef Board improve the transparency of its documents.

The beef checkoff program, managed by the Beef Board, collects a $1 assessment on each head of domestic cattle sold. It also assesses a “tax” on international imported cattle and beef products. Those funds may be used for market promotion, research and consumer education. But Beef checkoff programs may not be used on lobbying activities.

Because the National Cattlemen's Beef Association is both the Beef Board's closest contractor and the industry's main lobbying arm, many have accused the groups of violating beef checkoff program guidelines. This report, however, will temporarily put those allegations to bed.


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