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John Mayday: Child’s Play

R-CALF riled over checkoff snub

John Maday, Managing Editor, Drovers CattleNetwork | Updated: September 21, 2012

The Beef Industry Checkoff Group will meet with USDA officials next week in Denver, and for now at least, R-CALF USA won’t be there.

R-CALF has issued several letters and news releases about the issue over the past few days, including a September letter to USDA demanding access to all communications regarding the meeting under the Freedom of Information Act.

The dispute began on September 17 when eight members of the checkoff group (in which R-CALF has participated in the past) sent R-CALF a letter advising them they are not invited to attend the meeting. Group members sending the letter include the NCBA, 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.

Actually, the dispute began earlier than that, dating to 2010 when audits revealed leaks in the “firewall” intended to prevent NCBA’s policy arm from using checkoff funds. NCBA and the Cattlemen’s Beef Board resolved and settled the financial errors and created new safeguards, to the satisfaction of the USDA, but R-CALF has pushed since that time for USDA to ban NCBA from checkoff contracts.

In August 2012, R-CALF member Mike Callicrate filed a lawsuit against USDA, seeking to end NCBA’s role as a checkoff contractor. The lawsuit attracted considerable news coverage, particularly due to the role of animal rights group Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in providing legal advice to the plaintiffs.

So when the Beef Checkoff Industry Input Group sent their letter to R-CALF on September 17, they cited the lawsuit as a reason for scratching them from the invitation list. “In the past few weeks,” the letter reads, “your organization, R‐CALF USA, has indicated in a letter to USDA Sec. Vilsack that it ‘supports the actions called for in the lawsuit’ and if the Secretary does not act on the letter, [R‐CALF] will consider joining the lawsuit.”

R-CALF, however, denies writing any such thing. R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard sent a response to the checkoff group on September 19 stating “This is not a matter of misinterpreting R-CALF USA’s letter to Secretary Vilsack. You have committed fraud and libel by willfully and maliciously fabricating, and then assigning to R-CALF USA, a damaging and inflammatory quote that R-CALF USA did not make. You then maliciously used that fictitious quote as your basis for banning R-CALF USA from participating in the upcoming Sept. 24, 2012 meeting.”

The letter further states, “Your letter does not even reach the level of child’s play. Your action of willfully fabricating a statement, and then maliciously assigning that false statement to R-CALF USA as a direct quote, is so unethical and unprofessional as to be criminal.”

So what did R-CALF actually say about the Callicrate lawsuit? On August 28, Bullard sent a letter to Secretary Vilsack demanding an immediate and permanent end to contracts between the beef checkoff and NCBA. In the letter, Bullard states that R-CALF “fully supports the merits of the Michael Callicrate v. USDA et al. lawsuit.

He concludes the letter with the following statement: “We trust that you will carefully consider our demand and choose to comply in full. Doing so will negate the need for R-CALF USA to formally join in a complaint against you.”

So, technically they did not say “R‐CALF will consider joining the lawsuit” as the checkoff group stated in their letter. Instead, they implied if the Secretary complies with their wishes, they won’t need to join the lawsuit.

It’s kind of like the difference between telling your kid if he cleans up his room he won’t be grounded; as opposed to saying he’ll be grounded if he doesn’t clean up his room. Your kid will only know the difference if he aspires to be a lawyer.

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Posted by on September 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Reality Check…

R-CALF’s Accusation Against Industry Groups (verbatim from the R-CALF letter and press release):  In their letter, the eight members of the Industry Checkoff Group falsely accused R-CALF USA of stating in a recent letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that if Vilsack did not comply with the group’s letter, “[R-CALF] will consider joining the lawsuit (the Mike Callicrate v. USDA et al. lawsuit).”

R-CALF says the industry groups’ claim that R-CALF stated it would consider joining the lawsuit against the checkoff is fraudulent and libelous…here’s what R-CALF actually wrote to Secretary Vilsack,,,maybe R-CALF should be objecting to the placement of quotation marks because the group’s comments sure lead one to believe that unless the Secretary of Agriculture complies with its demands it will “join a complaint against” him.

From the R-CALF letter to Secretary Vilsack:  “R-CALF USA is outraged by your inaction – particularly following your receipt of our evidence that showed NCBA had misappropriated hundreds of thousands of cattle producers’ Beef Checkoff funds – and fully supports the merits of the Michael Callicrate v. USDA et al. lawsuit. We trust that you will carefully consider our demand and choose to comply in full.  Doing so will negate the need for R-CALF USA to formally join in a complaint against you.”  

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Histrionics!

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America

For Immediate Release:                                                                                     Contact: R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard

September 19, 2012                                                                            Phone: 406-252-2516; r-calfusa@r-calfusa.com 

Industry Checkoff Group Maliciously Bans R-CALF USA from Meeting with USDA; R-CALF USA Fights Back 

Billings, MT – On Sept. 24, 2012, the Beef Checkoff Industry Input Group (Industry Checkoff Group) is holding a meeting in Denver, Colo., to discuss ways to enhance the Beef Checkoff Program and partake in an informational presentation by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Marketing Specialist Craig Shackelford. R-CALF USA has been an active participant in the Industry Checkoff Group since its inception.  However, a concerted effort is underway to oust R-CALF USA from the upcoming meeting.

On Sept. 17, 2012, eight members of the Industry Checkoff Group:  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 sent a joint letter to R-CALF USA stating that no R-CALF USA representative may attend the upcoming meeting.

In their letter, the eight members of the Industry Checkoff Group falsely accused R-CALF USA of stating in a recent letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that if Vilsack did not comply with the group’s letter, “[R-CALF] will consider joining the lawsuit (the Mike Callicrate v. USDA et al. lawsuit).”

But, the quote the Industry Checkoff Group assigned to R-CALF USA is nowhere to be found in R-CALF USA’s letter to Vilsack.

“The joint letter falsely and maliciously accuses R-CALF USA of making a statement R-CALF USA did not make, and then used that false statement as their basis for attempting to ban R-CALF USA from meeting with USDA. It doesn’t get any more corrupt than that,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.

Today, R-CALF USA fought back with its own letter, sharply accusing the eight members of the Industry Checkoff Group of engaging in the unethical, fraudulent, and libelous act of maliciously fabricating a quote that R-CALF USA did not make.

The letter states, “This is not a matter of misinterpreting R-CALF USA’s letter to Secretary Vilsack. You have committed fraud and libel by willfully and maliciously fabricating, and then assigning to R-CALF USA, a damaging and inflammatory quote that R-CALF USA did not make. You then maliciously used that fictitious quote as your basis for banning R-CALF USA from participating in the upcoming Sept. 24, 2012 meeting.”

The letter further states, “Your letter (from the Checkoff Industry Group) does not even reach the level of child’s play. Your action of willfully fabricating a statement, and then maliciously assigning that false statement to R-CALF USA as a direct quote, is so unethical and unprofessional as to be criminal.”

The group’s letter also points out that R-CALF USA, three state Farmers Union groups, and 25 additional farm and cattle groups, representing untold thousands of Beef Checkoff Program contributors, sent on Aug. 4, 2010 a joint letter to USDA, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Office of Inspector General that made the same request R-CALF USA made in its more recent letter to Vilsack – the request for the immediate suspension of the Beef Checkoff Program contracts between the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB).

“R-CALF USA is the only member of the Beef Checkoff Industry Input Group that continually represents the long-stated positions of those untold thousands of Beef Checkoff Program contributors and your sinister attempt to ban R-CALF USA from the upcoming, Sept. 24, 2012 meeting likely is an effort to shut-out a significant segment of the industry that simply has a different opinion than yours,” the group wrote.

R-CALF USA is standing its ground stating “R-CALF USA considers the purported vote to ban R-CALF USA from the upcoming Sept. 24, 2012 Beef Checkoff Industry Input Group meeting to be null and void because it was clearly based on a malicious and fraudulent misrepresentation of R-CALF USA’s position. A representative of R-CALF USA will participate in the Sept. 24, 2012 meeting of the Beef Checkoff Industry Input Group.”

The group’s letter concludes: “In the meantime, we respectfully suggest that you identify the corrupt author of your Sept. 17, 2012 joint letter and immediately secure his or her resignation so that the Beef Checkoff Industry Input Group can begin to restore its severely damaged professionalism and integrity.”

# # #

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Repost: Who’s Contemplating Joining the OCM/HSUS Lawsuit? See For Yourself!

August 28, 2012

The Honorable Tom Vilsack Secretary of Agriculture U.S. Department of Agriculture 1400 Independence Ave., S.W. Washington, D.C. 20250

Sent via facsimile and U.S. Mail: 202-720-6314

Re: R-CALF USA’s Demand for the Immediate and Permanent Suspension of all Contracts Between the Beef Checkoff and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

R-CALF USA hereby demands that you fulfill your statutory and regulatory duty to enforce the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985 (Act) and the Beef Promotion and Research Order (Order), which together govern the Beef Checkoff Program (Beef Checkoff), against the ongoing, unlawful expenditure of producers’ Beef Checkoff funds by immediately ordering the permanent suspension of any and all contracts between the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Beef Checkoff.

For longer than two years: beginning May 24, 2010, and subsequently on Aug. 4, 2010; Dec. 14, 2010 (to Deputy Secretary Merrigan); Jan. 17, 2011; Jan. 20, 2011; Feb. 3, 2011; Feb. 28, 2011; and Aug. 22, 2011, R-CALF USA sent formal letters, replete with researched evidence of NCBA’s unlawful use of Beef Checkoff funds, that urged you to fulfill your statutory and regulatory responsibility by immediately suspending all contracts between the NCBA and the Beef Checkoff.

During that longer than two-year span, you abrogated your statutory and regulatory duty to preserve the integrity of the Beef Checkoff for U.S. cattle producers, despite your receipt of evidence from us that demonstrate the Beef Checkoff is being unlawfully abused under your watch. Instead, you and your Department have played the role of NCBA’s patsy. You have continued to allow the Beef Checkoff to unlawfully award tens of millions of dollars to NCBA, which enabled that organization to continue its unlawful use of Beef Checkoff funds to successfully undermine your Administration’s stated goals concerning country-of-origin labeling (COOL) and the competition rule proposed by the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), just to name two.

Because you shirked your responsibilities under the Act and Order and to U.S. cattle producers, a lawsuit was necessarily filed against you by an R-CALF USA member, Mike Callicrate. That lawsuit, Michael Callicrate v. USDA et al., makes nearly all the allegations we made to you during the past two years; references nearly all the evidence we provided you during the past two years; and, it seeks the same remedy we urged you to grant our industry during the past two years.

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America

P.O. Box 30715 Billings, MT 59107 Fax: 406-252-3176 Phone: 406-252-2516 Website: http://www.r-calfusa.com E-mail: r-calfusa@r-calfusa.comThe Honorable Tom Vilsack August 28, 2012 Page 2

R-CALF USA is outraged by your inaction – particularly following your receipt of our evidence that showed NCBA had misappropriated hundreds of thousands of cattle producers’ Beef Checkoff funds – and fully supports the merits of the Michael Callicrate v. USDA et al. lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed against you because you failed to stop the NCBA from unlawfully using Beef Checkoff funds to continually undermine the policy goals of independent U.S. cattle producers, which has effectively reduced their economic opportunities. A summary of the lawsuit that highlights the meritorious arguments R-CALF USA fully supports is attached.

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.

Individual cattle producers should not have to file a lawsuit to ask a federal court to order you to enforce statutes and regulations that you know are being violated. And, you should not be assigning your responsibilities to individuals and federal courts in hopes that they will do what you lacked the courage to do.

As part of our demand we call your attention to an allegation that R-CALF USA did not previously articulate, but which is contained in the lawsuit. That allegation is that the “prohibition on the use of checkoff funds applies equally to any trade/producer organizations funded wholly or in part by a particular board or contractors to the board.” We believe this language expresses the clear intent of both the Act and Order as it unequivocally bars any trade association that may receive Beef Checkoff funds from also engaging in activities to influence governmental action or policy. In other words, no policy-oriented trade association can continue its lobbying activities if it is a recipient of Beef Checkoff funds. Your Department must initiate a rulemaking to make it crystal clear that organizations that contract with the Beef Checkoff are barred from engaging in lobbying activities.

Your Department’s August 24 announcement indicating that you are now expanding the contracting authority for the Beef Checkoff is void of any mention that recipients of Beef Checkoff funds cannot engage in lobbying activities. Essentially, your Department’s announcement suggests that you intend to perpetuate the ongoing, unlawful use of Beef Checkoff funds by authorizing groups in addition to NCBA to compete directly with policy groups like NCBA for available Beef Checkoff funds. This is unconscionable.

We trust that you will carefully consider our demand and choose to comply in full. Doing so will negate the need for R-CALF USA to formally join in a complaint against you.

Sincerely,

Bill Bullard, CEO

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Alan Guebert on OCM-HSUS Checkoff Lawsuit

ALAN GUEBERT: Lies, distortions and lawsuits

August 24, 2012 11:27 am  •  By Alan Guebert

Somewhere along the line it became acceptable to bend and break the records of public figures and firms without any consequence whatsoever. Shortly thereafter distortion and deception replaced discussion and debate, and yelling and lying replaced compromise and progress.

And that’s just in agriculture; in politics it’s even worse.

The latest farm and food fight centers on the legal battle that pits the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s management of the beef checkoff against long-time checkoff critic Mike Callicrate, a Kansas rancher who owns the Colorado-based Ranch Food Direct.

But it’s more than just the she-said, he-said checkoff standoff.

That unending fight would end if the USDA simply conducted a multiyear audit of NCBA’s checkoff contracts. Past efforts to do just that, however, have been stiff-armed by NCBA’s powerful Capitol Hill allies,  who claim any audit of NCBA’s books is a waste of government time and money.

This political cover, well-irrigated by NCBA and its meatpacker members, allows the tiny cattle group (less than 4 percent of all U.S. cattle producers belong) outsized power as a political organization and as a checkoff contractor. That two-hatted trick also carries financial benefits for NCBA.

According to NCBA’s 2009 IRS Form 990 filings, the latest available, just $3.3 million of its $58.7 million in reported revenue came from membership dues. Most of the remainder came either directly or indirectly from the checkoff.

Threats to this rich river of revenue — and Callicrate’s federal lawsuit is an enormous threat — are met with cowboy hellfire and ranch brimstone.

In the past, NCBA has called on politicians and checkoff-benefiting media to sing its praises and deflect checkoff queries. This time, however, it was handed a loaded gun by two tough critics: Fred Stokes, outgoing president of the Organization for Competitive Markets, and Callicrate, OCM’s incoming president.

Stokes, a 77-year-old retired Army major, announced the federal lawsuit, which names Callicrate as its only plaintiff, Aug. 10 in a kick-off to OCM’s annual meeting.

In explaining the lawsuit, Stokes noted that OCM had asked attorneys at the Humane Society of the United States to examine rafts of checkoff material OCM had received from the USDA through the Freedom of Information Act to assess the merits of any possible suit. HSUS attorneys did so for free.

After that revelation, the sky fell on OCM, Stokes and Callicrate. Everyone with a wide-brimmed hat condemned the group and its leaders for taking any assistance from the Humane Society, a group mainline farm organizations loathe reflexively.

NCBA President J.D. Alexander fired first when, according to a NCBA news release later that day, he “expressed disgust … that (OCM) has formed a partnership with the (HSUS) to destroy more than 25 years of market development and consumer demand building by the Beef Checkoff Program.”

Alexander was wrong; OCM had not formed a “partnership” of any kind with HSUS. As Stokes explained, Humane Society attorneys, at OCM’s request, read checkoff documents to offer their unpaid judgment on whether a suit was advisable.

The checkoff lawsuit, in fact, was written and filed, pro bono, by Daniel Owen and G. Gabriel Zorogastua of Polsenelli Shughart PC, a Kansas City, Mo., law firm known for its antitrust expertise.

Worse, Alexander’s hyperbolic “destroy more than 25 years of market development and consumer demand building” is not just a personal opinion, it’s fact-defying baloney.

Since the 1987 start-up of the beef checkoff, the number of U.S. beef operations has fallen from 1.01 million to 742,000, U.S. retail sales of beef per capita have plummeted from 78.7 pounds to 60.8 pounds, and the U.S. cattle herd has fallen from 102.1 million head to 90.8 million.

There are reasons for this dismal performance, but “market development,” “consumer demand,” and $1.5 billion in checkoff money would not be three of them.

Additionally, as the U.S. cattle sector continues a decades-long trend of losing an estimated 1,000 producers per month, the nation continues to outsource its beef. During the first six months of 2012, beef imports were up 21 percent and cattle imports were 22 percent over 2011.

And here’s another hard fact: HSUS, Callicrate and Stokes did nothing to bring about this atrocious record of checkoff failure.

So why is NCBA, a group that 94 percent of all cattlemen choose not to join, making them the bogeyman for beef’s woe?

Because we sit silently.

Don’t worry; the distortions, lying and the yelling won’t kill democratic institutions.

The silence, however, might.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Kudos to ANCW, USCA, et al by Troy Marshall

It wasn’t surprising that the American National CattleWomen (ANCW) recently condemned the lawsuit on the checkoff by the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) and the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS). After all, ANCW is intimately involved with the checkoff and its success, and they work to combat the mission of HSUSon a daily basis.

However, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised that the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) voiced its condemnation of the OCM/HSUS alliance and HSUS’s involvement in an industry lawsuit. Even though this group, which was created following R-CALF’s implosion several years ago, tends to be at odds with the policy positions of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), they obviously recognize that some actions can’t be tolerated. Crawling in bed with one of the industry’s biggest enemies just isn’t acceptable.

Closer Look: OCM, HSUS Team Up To Attack Checkoff

While HSUS recognizes it can significantly damage the industry by harming the national checkoff, it appears the anti-meat group won’t be enjoying the overt support of any cattlemen’s groups in working toward that goal. What’s more, in its pronouncement, USCA seems to be committed to working within the system to effect the changes it wants to see.

Despite all the rhetoric and the constant refrain that NCBA is controlled by packer interests, there also seems to be a growing maturity to industry disagreements. While there certainly is still the radical element on all sides that would sacrifice the industry to achieve specific policy goals, this hopefully signals that there might be a growing realization that we can work together.

There is little doubt that substantive differences on issues exist among these groups, butdifferences over GIPSA and mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) don’t transcend the love we all have for this industry. In actuality, the differences within the U.S. beef industry are limited to really one or two hot-button issues; perhaps we can put aside internal divisions for the good of all. After all, a vast majority of U.S. beef producers have made it known that they are not in support of partisan differences tearing down the checkoff.

The checkoff has nothing to do with policy, and virtually everyone agrees that the system created is both efficient and effective in building beef demand. While the checkoff has been viewed by a few as a way to wage political battles, the industry clearly has spoken over the last 18 months. The message is that foolish political differences won’t be allowed to destroy a very positive and successful self-help program.

That said, HSUS’s divide-and-conquer strategy appears to have hit a major snag. The industry has observed the type of damage that HSUS can wreak by putting a producer face on the attack, and the industry seems to be speaking almost in unanimity in rejecting the notion of working with HSUS to bring the checkoff down. Perhaps the HSUS aim of using OCM to divide the industry did just the opposite – it united us and shined the light on what and who are truly working in the best interests of the industry.

 
 
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Posted by on September 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

The Lightning Rod For Checkoff Litigation (NCBA) Responds To Lawsuit…

8/10/2012

HSUS, OCM Form Alliance to Destroy Beef Checkoff

 

– Animal Rights Organization Partners with Fringe Farm Group

WASHINGTON – National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President J.D. Alexander expressed disgust following an announcement that the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) has formed a partnership with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to destroy more than 25 years of market development and consumer demand building by the Beef Checkoff Program.

Specifically, OCM announced yesterday evening that it will file a lawsuit today seeking an injunction against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service, Cattlemen’s Beef Board and the Beef Promotion Operating Committee. OCM President and Director Fred Stokes stated during the press briefing that HSUS is helping fund its efforts to file the lawsuit. OCM claims to advocate for a fair, competitive agricultural marketplace; however, in doing so it partnered with an organization known for its anti-agriculture agenda. According to Alexander, independent research shows the beef checkoff is supported by nearly 75 percent of cattlemen and women.

“HSUS is an organization going state by state vowing to end production agriculture by outlawing scientifically validated production practices in animal agriculture. Their efforts put people out of business and often jeopardize the well-being of livestock,” said Alexander.

OCM made no secrets about its connection to HSUS during the press conference.

Stokes said, “OCM and every cowboy out there owes a deep gratitude to the Humane Society of the United States.”

Alexander, who is also an independent cattle feeder from Pilger, Neb., said it is paramount for cattlemen and cattlewomen to know that OCM is working with an extremist animal rights group to disable a program dedicated to building demand for beef.

“Their actions will impact consumers by increasing protein costs at the grocery store. They are no friend to family farmers and ranchers or consumers and will be challenged at every corner by NCBA,” said Alexander. “Animal agriculture is vital to sustaining food production and we will not sit by and allow these organizations to stifle our ability to mitigate hunger and feed people here and abroad.”

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in Uncategorized