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AFF Sentinel V20#42-Lee, Animal Activists, Fringe Liberal Ag Groups Try Checkoff Sabotage

Underhanded Work Makes Strange, Distasteful Bedfellows

Steve Dittmer | AFF Sentinel

Colorado Springs, CO

Originally sent to subscribers 09/15/23

.As long-time readers of this column know, the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) has a history of working with radical activist groups, including those with stated long-term goals to terminate animal agriculture. OCM has apparently seen that strategy as a way to stay alive as a fringe organization so as to fight mainstream ranchers and farmers.

Unfortunately, it is not the only organization to sell out to adversaries of the beef industry to survive in the short term. R-CALF did the same with Public Justice to also attack the checkoff.

OCM’s finances were not strong until they hooked up with HSUS, which provided them support and personnel to fight the checkoff and -- by extension -- their primary target, NCBA. An additional strategy was to sue USDA and the checkoff to bleed off NCBA budgets in legal fees spent to defend and preserve the checkoff. NCBA had to reimburse USDA for legal fees. The legal effort opposing the checkoff in reality was funded and fueled by the huge budget of HSUS and handled by their legal department.

It’s to be noted that NCBA has to do defense of the checkoff in Congress because the checkoff is statutorily prohibited from lobbying or defending itself in Congress. In fact, the checkoff is still restricted from what it can do even to inform cattle producers on the merits of their own checkoff, because of restrictions put on it by South Dakota District Judge Kornmann nearly 20 years ago. That case was brought in part by fringe NGOs fighting mainstream cattlemen’s organizations and their thousands of members, with a goal of restricting cattle marketing outside the auction ring.

Now, OCM is apparently using the same strategy, with big money being channeled through their coffers from major left-leaning, anti-animal agriculture and anti-meat groups, according to NCBA. Farm Action, populated by the same activists HSUS lent to OCM in their anti-checkoff campaign, is also serving as a channel for anti-animal agriculture groups.

As per usual, OCM and Farm Action are claiming to be the real farmers and ranchers, as opposed to mainstream production cattlemen’s groups like NCBA and state cattlemen’s groups.

The lobbying effort on Capitol Hill is to try to persuade Congress that the beef checkoff needs reforming and mainstream cattle organizations have acted badly. They want the OFF Act, Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act, to be amended into the Farm Bill. Their efforts include billboard trucks driving around the Hill, Congressional lobbying, social media and ads aimed at Hill staffers.

There are 23 agricultural commodity checkoffs named in the bill.

NCBA’s Ethan Lane explained their position on the OFF act.

We are the real farmers and ranchers groups, he said. “They” have the money but there are tens of thousands of ranchers and farmers out in the country doing the work of feeding the world.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) is again fighting to destroy America’s commodity checkoffs. The argument is that the checkoff is a tax and they misleadingly portray the checkoff as a government expenditure, Lane said.

In reality, it is not a tax, as cattlemen voted the checkoff into existence themselves in a nationwide referendum over 35 years ago. No taxpayer money goes in to funding the checkoff’s promotion, research and education. The checkoff not only pays for the checkoff programs but also reimburses USDA for the cost of administering and making sure that the checkoff complies with the enabling legislation.

A handful of fringe agricultural groups have tried to end the beef checkoff for years. They are groups opposed to free market agriculture, and they charge the checkoff supports “anti-competitive behavior.” The checkoff doesn’t lobby for anything, it just promotes beef. The opponents of the checkoff are really expressing opposition to marketing methods like value-added branded beef, contracting and formula marketing pioneered by cattlemen to improve beef quality and consistency, improve marketing efficiency, cut costs and boost profitability.

The claims of lack of transparency by Lee, Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ, Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), for example, are ludicrous. Go to any CBB meeting and cattlemen can pick up reports, sit in on committee meetings and ask questions. If they don’t know what’s going on, it is lack of effort and interest, not lack of opportunity. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has also supported the bill, which is hard to understand unless he has been misinformed by colleagues and staff. He apparently has not budged from his stance when we heard him give a presentation several years ago claiming the checkoff was funded by taxpayers.

But the very fact that most of the Senators backing the OFF Act are from such powerhouse agricultural, rural states like New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts -- with apologies to the farmers and ranchers in those states -- opposing self-funded, self-directed research and promotion program by farmers and ranchers should tell us something.

Lane said the difference this time is the big surge of effort and money by animal activist groups to oppose livestock checkoffs as a way to damage animal agriculture. After all, their reason for existence is to eliminate livestock production.

Sen. Lee has inexplicably thrown in with the animal activists to try to damage the voices of farmers and ranchers speaking up for livestock production. The checkoffs are funded and directed by ranchers and farmers. If animal activist groups can silence those voices, they are closer to achieving their goals of destroying livestock production.

With 12 appropriations bills, a threat of a government shutdown and impeachment investigations, the danger is that Lee and his henchmen in Congress, with the assistance of animal agriculture’s avowed enemies, could slip the OFF Act amendment into the Farm Bill.

Contact info for House members:

Contact info for Senate members:

Contact info for Sen. Mike Lee:

Next time: More background, more agendas, more checkoff facts.


Edi. Note: the pic below looked so good, we had to keep it again, (courtesy beef Check off).


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