Revisions in beef check-off may heat up summer meeting
Voting delayed once again
As the Cattle Industry Summer Conference approaches, members of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) set new standards to avoid future misuse of check-off funds by contractors and stay in compliance with the Beef Act and Beef Order for the long term.
The first issue was the hot topic at last year’s cattlemen’s summer conference when the independent review by Clifton Gunderson LLP confirmed that the beef check-off firewall was, indeed, breached. The check-off -- an assessment of $1 per head on the sale of domestic and imported cattle and an equivalent assessment on imported beef products -- funds research, education, and the promotion of beef and beef products.
The second issue revolves around recommendations for changes in the Beef Board’s policies and procedures. Upon calling for a vote on the changes in March, beef board leadership delayed the vote to the 2011 Cattle Industry Summer Conference in August to allow for full board discussion.
Chuck Kiker, a six-year member of the beef board who was reappointed after a one-year hiatus, answered questions in a phone interview April 28 as to what led to the vote on the recommendations, and the outcome of that vote request.
Kiker, who also serves as vice president of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, explained that the Roles and Responsibilities Committee that developed the recommendation was formed in early 2010. The recommendations, approved by the CBB Executive Committee, were originally forwarded to all members of the CBB before the 2010 summer conference, though the board “was not asked to take action” at that time. Instead, the spotlight turned to the findings of the Gunderson review. (See timetable for events that led to April’s vote cancellation.)
In a March 28 CBB memo, the committee’s 11 recommendations were presented to the CBB members, with voting originally scheduled to close on April 4. The CBB memo from CBB Vice Chairman Wesley Grau, who chairs the Executive Committee, and CBB Chairman Tom Jones explained the reason for an April vote. “Given that the board is about to begin its annual planning and budgeting process, the Executive Committee requests that Beef Board members approve the recommendations as soon as possible.”
Kiker explained that Jones rescheduled the voting due to requests by some CBB members, who wanted a chance to discuss the changes in a convened meeting of the entire board. The issue is set to be addressed at the 2011 summer conference. If these revisions are accepted at the conference, Kiker said, they could go into effect in 2012.
The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, in a March 31 press release, commended the efforts of the CBB executive committee who voted in favor of the proposed changes of the Roles and Responsibilities Committee. The association made the proposed changes available on its website, www.uscattlemen.org.
The role of the current major contractor of the beef board, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), is addressed in the recommendations. The joint committee coordination agreement between the Beef Board and the NCBA was “terminated beginning in 2011.” This will allow the two groups to “develop a new working relationship which ensures beef check-off processes are accountable to check-off investors and properly structured,” according to the committee’s report.
Kiker confirmed the contract with NCBA has expired but the NCBA may continue as one of the contractors.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) website, more than 100 organizations qualify to serve as contractors. Today, the four contractors of the Beef Board funding include the NCBA, the American National Cattle Women, the U.S. Meat Export Federation, and the Meat Importers Council of America.
One other notable recommendation states that a conflict of interest form must be signed annually, since all members are “appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture and a representative of USDA.”
The Roles and Responsibilities Committee continues to emphasize that check-off funds cannot be used for lobbying efforts.