The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has concluded from an audit of the national beef checkoff that there were no audit issues associated with the beef checkoff for the 2008-2010 period and that the Cattlemen's Beef Board and its contractors were in full compliance with the rules that govern the checkoff.
OIG said the relationships between the Beef Board and its contractors, including its primary contractor, the National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. (NCBA), complied with the legislation that established the checkoff in 1985 and provide guidance for the use of checkoff funds. "Funds were collected, distributed and expended in accordance with the legislation," OIG said.
The OIG review was the consequence of a dispute between the Beef Board and NCBA over NCBA's handling of checkoff funds that raised questions about the two groups' accountability to make sure that checkoff funds are used only for the purposes of the checkoff and not for public affairs (Feedstuffs, Aug. 2, 2010).
The checkoff collects $1 per head in all cattle selling transactions to fund beef advertising and promotion, consumer information, industry research and producer education. The checkoff is not permitted to be used for influencing government and public policy matters.
After meetings between the Beef Board and NCBA, the two organizations resolved their differences and created important protocols to make sure that the "fire wall" between checkoff funds and non-checkoff money would not be breached (Feedstuffs, Aug. 8, 2011).
The issue has become the center of a lawsuit filed by Kansas cattle feeder Mike Callicrate, with the assistance of The Humane Society of the United States, against Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack alleging misuse of checkoff funds (Feedstuffs, Oct. 29, 2012).
Attorneys for the U.S. Department of Justice, which is representing USDA and Vilsack in the case, and Callicrate had agreed to a delay in the trial until the OIG report was completed.