R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard filed a request for information last week under the Freedom of Information Act and/or Privacy Act for copies of all records of communications between the USDA and the eight groups that "banned" R-CALF from attending a meeting of the Beef Checkoff Industry group last week in Denver, Colo., due to allegations of Beef Checkoff Fund misappropriation.
In a letter requesting that R-CALF not attend, the checkoff group said "there was a high degree of discomfort" with R-CALF being represented at the meeting as a result of the current allegations.
The original conflict formed after an August letter from RCALF to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requested permanent suspension of contracts between the Beef Checkoff Program and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
Stemming from similar concerns, the Organization for Competitive Markets formally announced a lawsuit on Aug. 10 against the board that controls the Beef Checkoff. OCM partnered with the Humane Society of the United States for litigation assistance, though R-CALF has not joined the suit.
Due to the ongoing disagreement, Bullard said the FOIA and/or Privacy Act request is to determine USDA involvement in planning the meeting last week.
"This request is necessary because a decision was made by the Beef Checkoff Industry Input Group and/or the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ban me or any other representative of R-CALF USA from participating, in any way, at the meeting," Bullard wrote in his request.
The request asked for all communications between USDA and the eight groups from Aug. 10, 2012 through Sept. 20, 2012, non-exclusive of communications relating to the Sept. 24 meeting.
"Organizers of the September 24, 2012 meeting (i.e., the eight organizations listed above) asserted that the basis for excluding R-CALF USA from the meeting included a lawsuit that was filed against the USDA on August 10, 2012," Bullard said, explaining why all correspondence was needed.
"We hope USDA was not involved in excluding R-CALF USA, but given USDA's refusal to take any remedial action after learning that NCBA had misused hundreds of thousands of producer checkoff dollars, it's not a far stretch to suspect that USDA is complicit in trying to stop us from restoring the credibility of the Beef Checkoff Program," Bullard said.
The eight groups involved in the meeting included the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, U.S. Cattlemen's Association, Meat Importers Council of America, American National CattleWomen, American Farm Bureau Federation, Livestock Marketing Association, National Livestock Producers and National Farmers Union.