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Agricultural News

Opposition to the Oklahoma Beef Checkoff Campaign Surfaces from the Organization for Competitive Markets

Wed, 04 Oct 2017 06:11:38 CDT

Opposition to the Oklahoma Beef Checkoff Campaign Surfaces from the Organization for Competitive Markets Opposition to the secondary state beef checkoff that is now being voted on by Oklahoma cattle producers has surfaced from the Organization for Competitive Markets, a group that has been associated with the Humane Society of the US.

On Tuesday, the OCM issued a News Release raising concerns they have attributed to former State Senator Paul Muegge of Tonkawa. The eighty year old former Senator is a board member of the OCM- and charges the Oklahoma Beef Council with helping promote the secondary state beef checkoff in cooperation with the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association. OCM indicates they have filed a complaint with the USDA's Office of Inspector General- making three "requests" of the OIG:

1.     "We request that The Council be ordered to cease and desist all activities and expenditures associated with this state referendum and any efforts to assess Oklahoma cattle producers a $1.00 fee on all cattle sold in Oklahoma. Further, we request that they be held accountable for any expenditures they have made and for any costs they have incurred in the promotion of the state referendum."

2.    "We are further requesting the OIG conduct a full and complete investigation and a full and complete audit of the activities of The Beef Council and the federally mandated beef checkoff funds they have collected and expended over the past 10 years. We request the findings of the investigation and the full audit be released to the public along with all documents detailing the last 10 years of collections and expenditures by The Council and any contractor who has received any of the federally mandated Beef Checkoff funds."

3.     "We request OIG demand all parties to include the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association who are using the fake and confusing mark, logo and symbol to immediately cease and desist from its utilization for any and all purposes."

As evidence of the use of the Beef Checkoff logo, OCM pointed to a Facebook post found on the Oklahoma Beef Checkoff page (a page set up to promote the vote now underway) that points to a story found on the Oklahoma Farm Report website that featured comments from Texas Beef Council Executive Director Richard Wortham, who described the success that Texas has had with their secondary state beef checkoff that was established in 2014. Click here to jump to that story- and you will notice no mention of the Oklahoma Beef Council in the story that is online.

On the Facebook posting- the page administrator did include a picture from our website that is a graphic from the Oklahoma Beef Council inviting producers to susbcribe to their email newsletter. It's a graphic that is entirely separate from the actual news story that was originally posted on September 14, 2017.

The Oklahoma Farm Report asked Heather Buckmaster if they have used any resources in helping promote the secondary state beef checkoff efforts- her response- "The Oklahoma Beef Council is not involved and has not contributed any funds toward the Oklahoma Beef Checkoff referendum led by a coalition of Oklahoma producer organizations."

In regards to the call by the OCM to have the OIG investigate the Oklahoma Beef Council because of the embezzlement case that has been playing out over the last year, Buckmaster says that the OIG has participated significantly with the federal criminal investigation against Melissa Morton. To this point, OIG has not indicated any need for further audits beyond those that have been a part of the developing case. The Beef Council has released an update on the status of the embezzlement case this past week- click here to read their latest statement on this case that awaits sentencing of Morton, who has pled guilty.

In the news release, Muegge and the OCM also questioned the right of those under age of 18 to be able to vote in the current checkoff referendum. A memo, which you can read here, has been sent to OSU extension educators across the state questioning the right of minors to vote. Muegge also contradicts state law in trying to call the checkoff monies a tax instead of an assessment, which a producer can recoup by requesting a refund.

In response to those concerns, OSU Director of Extension Dr. James Trapp has sent an email to extension offices saying:

"First, all state Checkoff referendums held to date, including the federal Checkoff referendum of 1988, allowed all beef farmers and ranchers who pay the assessment to vote in the referendum. This includes all cattle producers including those under the age of 18, like 4H members that own and sell cattle. This Oklahoma referendum is no different in that aspect.

"Second, to ensure ballot integrity, voters under the age of 18 must provide their guardian's name and phone number as a safe guard measure.

"Third, state statute defines the program as an assessment not a tax. State law defines the program as an assessment since it is only paid at the time of sale of cattle and all funds are refundable to the seller.

"It is also important to note that the entire ballot process was approved by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry."

The Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association has also indirectly responded to the charges leveled by the OCM with a one page that they say will debunk the myths being raised by some against the secondary state beef checkoff vote. You can open the one page statement from the OCA by clicking on the PDF link below.



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