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AFF Sentinel V20#44-Lee, Animal Activists, Fringe Liberal Ag Groups Try Checkoff Sabotage-Part III

Bill Clauses Seem Repetitive and Unnecessary


Steve Dittmer | AFF Sentinel

Colorado Springs, CO

Originally sent to subscribers 09/17/23

In two previous columns, we backgrounded you on the efforts and whys of Sen. Lee, other lawmakers, OCM, Farm Action and animal activist groups to slip a bill hobbling the beef checkoff into the Farm Bill. This time, what the bill says and what it really means.


The language in the OFF Act may seem general in nature but it is actually carefully worded to go after certain organizations and destroy the network of cattlemen and cattlewomen that is key to promoting, researching and educating the public about beef. This network has been constructed over 100 years by the cattle industry and certain groups and activists would like nothing better than to destroy it.


Off Act language:



…“the unlawful use of checkoff programs funds benefits some agricultural producers while harming many others;”


The beef checkoff has always been careful to promote beef in general. What “harm” could this language refer to? The idea is to promote the end product, not specify how it was produced, where or by whom. There is no basis for claiming beef promotion hurts “many others.”

We’ve been involved or around the checkoff -- both the original Beef Industry Council version and the one voted into existence in 1985 since the ‘70s. We have never seen checkoff funds used to lobby. This clause is meant to address an imaginary issue concocted by opponents of free market, mainstream beef producer organizations. Their distaste is really with free market cattlemen’s groups, not the checkoff. It is just a tool.

Prohibition language from the bill:


 “…use funds to influence policy directly or by partnering with organizations that lobby”

4) to more effectively prevent Boards from using funds for unlawful purposes, strict separation of engagement between the Boards and policy entities is necessary;

(5) conflicts of interest in the checkoff programs allow special interests to use checkoff program funds for the benefit of some assessed agricultural producers at the expense of many others;


Again, what would be the definition of “partnering?” Board or committee members, sharing philosophies? 


All of these clauses are veiled references to state or national beef promotion councils that share buildings or personnel to be able to operate efficiently on limited cattle industry budgets. Talk about special interests, or in this case, special targets, these clauses are specially designed to target an enemy -- NCBA. It is just as possible to keep funding and program support separately accounted for with cattlemen’s groups as it is for multi-company holding companies or family companies to keep enterprise records and finances separate. This is a red herring, a straw man set up to create an impression of reform need. It is also a way to unite animal welfare activists and anti-free market cattlemen’s groups against the rest of America’s beef production chain.


As for the national beef checkoff, the cattle organizations that oppose the checkoff use as ploys ignorance of the history of the checkoff and refusal to admit accountants can track money. The initial National Livestock & Meat Board/Beef Industry Council served the industry for roughly 60 years. When cattlemen voting in a national referendum established a new checkoff, cattlemen wanted to preserve the expertise and institutional knowledge of decades of work by the Beef Industry Council (BIC). So that promotion, research and education group was moved under the umbrella of the National Cattlemen’s Association, as a separate promotion division, governed and funded by qualified state beef councils.


Opponents have refused to acknowledge that history or that separate entity promotion division from NCBA. They have used that red herring as a trumped up bone of contention, desperate to find some reason to oppose the whole industry-designed setup of that promotion arm as an eligible CBB contractor.


Of course, the Cattlemen’s Beef Board is a totally separate organization established under the enabling legislation, answerable to its board, elected by cattlemen and cattle women.


Audits on regular bases by third party and USDA personnel have almost never found problems. But there are a majority of cattlemen and cattlewomen who support free market agriculture and support industry segment cooperation and coordination in order to produce the best product for the consumer.


There is a minority of cattlemen who hold different political views than that cooperative approach, who regard other industry segments as only adversarial; who want more government regulation and refereeing; who want a more restricted production environment than the last 150 years of cattle production and who oppose innovative marketing strategies like contracting, branded beef, formula production, targeted use of auctions, etc. Because they don’t want to participate in those methods, they want those methods prohibited for everyone else.


That is not the American free enterprise way. It is instead, a way to impede progress, to strangle the newer methods of management of the beef production chain that have brought back beef demand since the ‘90s. That is exactly why the animal activist groups want those innovations prohibited. It is a way to damage the beef industry.

Two things are at stake here: the autonomy of the CBB and the beef checkoff and the rightful ability of the separate promotion division of NCBA to serve as a contractor to the CBB. More government interference is not what the beef industry needs.


To sign NCBA’s letter to Congress opposing the AFF Act via cellphone: Text “checkoff” to 52886


Contact info for House members:


Contact info for Senate members:


Contact info for Sen. Mike Lee:


 


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


 

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