WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 – A federal court is giving the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association until mid-February to complete a review of documents from a USDA audit of the beef checkoff, in connection with a lawsuit challenging NCBA’s role in how checkoff money is spent.

The lawsuit was brought by the Organization for Competitive Markets with the help of attorneys tied to the Humane Society of the United States. OCM is seeking to access documents from a USDA audit of the beef checkoff program, but NCBA has objected, saying some of the documents contain private NCBA business information. OCM is arguing that NCBA, which is the largest contractor to the beef checkoff, has too big a say in how beef checkoff money is spent. NCBA insists this isn’t the case.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia gave NCBA until Feb. 17 to review the documents, which were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, and to redact any private or proprietary information.

Fred Stokes, a board member of OCM and a cattleman from Mississippi, called the order “another hard-fought victory for U.S. cattle producers.”

“NCBA has been trying to hide the truth for too long, and it is time they come clean about how our beef checkoff funds are being spent,” Stokes said in a statement. “It is the cattle producers' money, and we have a right to the truth." 

In addition to the Feb. 17 deadline, the court also scheduled a hearing for March 8. Status reports are due Feb. 8 and Feb. 28.

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