In a letter submitted to the USDA this week, cattle organization R-CALF USA asked Secretary Tom Vilsack to permanently suspend all contracts between the Beef Checkoff Program and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association before the Michael Callicrate v. USDA et al. lawsuit proceeds any further.
The lawsuit was initially announced earlier this month at the Organization for Competitive Markets' annual meeting. It alleges NCBA misuse of checkoff funds and will seek an injunction against NCBA's control of the checkoff, which assesses a $1 per head fee that is intended for beef promotion and education.
OCM has partnered also with the Humane Society of the United States to bring the case against NCBA. The plaintiff, Michael Callicrate, is a livestock farmer and R-CALF member.
In a press release, R-CALF said they have sent eight separate letters to Secretary Vilsack requesting suspension of NCBA's contracts with the Beef Checkoff. But, they say, Vilsack has "abrogated his responsibility to preserve the integrity of the Beef Checkoff."
In the letter, R-CALF alleged unlawful use of checkoff funds to "…successfully undermine your Administration's stated goals concerning country-of-origin labeling and the competition rule proposed by the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration."
R-CALF said in the letter that they have submitted evidence that "demonstrates the NCBA had unlawfully misused beef checkoff dollars." The group called on Vilsack to revoke NCBA's contracts with the checkoff.
"We demand that you, by your own fruition, immediately put a stop to the NCBA's ongoing abuse of the Beef Checkoff by fully implementing the entire remedy sought in the lawsuit, which is the remedy we have unsuccessfully sought from you for longer than two years. We are calling on you to act, and to act appropriately, without the lawsuit having to proceed any further," the letter said.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack responded to the group's allegations at the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, on Thursday.
He said he was pleased with the progress towards cooperation and communication that has been made between the entities involved with the checkoff. However, he said also that the USDA was in the process of completing an audit of the checkoff as well.
"I will not make decisions until I have all the information that I need to have" Vilsack said.
On Aug. 10, following OCM allegations, NCBA President J.D. Alexander released a statement "expressing disgust" regarding OCM claims. Alexander cited independent research that indicates nearly 75% of cattlemen and women support the checkoff, and chastised OCM's involvement with HSUS.