Lawyers at animal rights’ group Humane Society of the United States have filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of Inspector General on behalf of the Organization for Competitive Markets.
HSUS is pushing for the publication of audit documents detailing the financing of beef checkoff promotion activities, something the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s is intimately involved in.
Both audits found investment in checkoff projects – funded by an industry levy – are protected by a firewall. This stops cash being used by the NCBA for policy work, ensuring capital is utilised exclusively for the promotion of beef consumption.
Line in the sand
“We have, and will continue to fully cooperate with all reviews and audits of our contracting activities,” said NCBA CEO Kendal Frazier.
“However, we will not stand idly by and allow HSUS to kill the checkoff. This isn’t the first attempt to weaken our industry and it won’t be the last, but this is where we must draw a line in the sand and protect the interests of American cattlemen and women."
The NCBA claims multiple audits by the Office of Inspector General – responsible for ensuring federal agencies use funds appropriately – found the NCBA was fully compliant with laws protecting checkoff funds.
“Those findings haven’t satisfied the extremist animal rights activists at HSUS or its partners at OCM [Organization for Competitive Markets],” said Frazier.
“Instead of working to better our industry, these two organisations and a small handful of cattlemen have chosen a devil’s pact in an effort to weaken the checkoff, which will in turn, weaken beef demand and our entire industry.”
NCBA claim the lawsuit is an effort by HSUS to drive a “political agenda”. By diverting attention away from beef promotion work HSUS forces firms to waste time and money fighting legal challenges at a time when volatility is hurting the US beef sector, NCBA claim.
“There’s no doubt that HSUS stands against rural America. Their attacks on the beef and pork checkoff programs weaken promotion efforts. HSUS and its allies have clearly demonstrated they have no interest in the livestock business beyond ending it,” said Frazier.
“They will attempt to make this about transparency and say they’re undertaking this effort on behalf of producers. But let’s be clear: HSUS intends to put every cattleman and woman in America out of business. By weakening checkoff programs and damaging producer-directed marketing and promotion efforts, they can cause economic harm to our industry and force us out of production agriculture.”
The NCBA is a contractor of the beef checkoff program, a beef producer-funded scheme designed to promote the consumption of US beef home and abroad. NCBA and the USDA oversee the collection and spend of checkoff-related funds.
HSUS and the USDA’s Office of Inspector General were unable to provide comment at the time of writing.