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Agricultural News

Organization for Competitive Markets Partners with HSUS to Sue the Beef Checkoff

Fri, 10 Aug 2012 05:54:52 CDT

Organization for Competitive Markets Partners with HSUS to Sue the Beef Checkoff Fighting within the US Beef Cattle Industry was escalated dramatically on Thursday afternoon with word that the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM)has partnered with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to evaluate and plan a lawsuit the group will file Friday. The suit will name as defendants USDA, the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB) and the Beef Operating Committee, according to Fred Stokes, OCM president (pictured here). The suit will seek an injunction to stop the CBB from contracting with NCBA to carry out check off programs. OCM will allege USDA failed in its oversight role over the cattlemen-financed and directed program. The suit will allege NCBA "abuses" of check off funds- citing audits from a couple of years ago that showed some expenses that NCBA claimed were checkoff related were disallowed under further scrutiny. Those funds were refunded to the Checkoff, new procedures and more frequent checks were put in place- and that story appeared to become old news.

However, the Organization for Competitive Markets has hung onto ideas that NCBA illegally used that money- and they believe that those abuses continue. In a news conference Thursday afternoon in Kansas City, Stokes said his group had filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request some time back. They had turned the resulting information over to the legal team at HSUS. In March of 2012, at a meeting in Omaha, HSUS and their attorneys persuaded OCM that a lawsuit based on the FOIA information and that previous audit of NCBA contracts with CBB could be pursued. OCM then persuaded a law firm - Polsenelli Shugart, with offices in 16 cities from New York and Washington to Los Angles -- to handle the case on a pro bono basis.

Steve Dittmer, in an email "blog" that he sends out periodically, reported Thursday night that "Stokes talked about the evolution of this radical move, tracing the start of this strategy from dashed, "high hopes for this administration." In meetings early on with administration people, Stokes said the feeling was that "these people understood our problems, felt our pain and help was on the way." They felt J. Dudley Butler's efforts at reinvigorating the Packers and Stockyards Act would bear fruit. Stokes claimed "millions of dollars were spent" opposing Butler's proposed Rule - "some of it forcefully taken from us through commodity programs." Stokes referred to "sometimes vulgar opponents" in Congress opposing the implementation of the Rule, as well as other disappointments to the group, including the proposed 2012 Farm Bill with no livestock title included and the WTO's striking down of the mCOOL law advocated by OCM and allies.

"At that point, having lost decisively on several fronts to mainstream livestock producers, OCM apparently felt the only viable option they had was to take the advice of one of the livestock industry's foremost adversaries in HSUS and prevail upon a large law firm to help them sue all the rest of the nation's cattlemen. The large majority of cattlemen - as documented by third-party surveys - have credited the beef check off with a large share of the recovered consumer beef demand resulting in the all-time record beef prices in recent years."

Our Farm Director, Ron Hays, monitored the webcast from the Kansas City news conference- and reports on it in today's Beef Buzz. He also reported on the early morning statement from JD Alexander, President of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association on the partnership announced by Stokes between the OCM and the HSUS. Alexander called the partnership "disgusting." The release states “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.”

The Organization for Competitive Markets has a full day of meetings planned for today in Kansas City- including an address from Wayne Pacelle, President of the HSUS. According to the OCM, he will discuss "building coalitions." There is expected to be more details about the lawsuit against USDA and the CBB once it is filed in federal court.

The Beef Buzz is a regular feature heard on radio stations around the region on the Radio Oklahoma Network- but is also a regular audio feature found on this website as well. Click on the LISTEN BAR below for today's show- and check out our archives for older Beef Buzz shows covering the gamut of the beef cattle industry today.

Ron Hays Beef Buzzes on the OCM deal with HSUS to sue USDA and the CBB to stop NCBA involvement with beef checkoff.

right-click to download mp3    

Ron Hays Beef Buzzes on the OCM deal with HSUS to sue USDA and the CBB to stop NCBA involvement with beef checkoff.
right-click to download mp3


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