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Agriculture Today

Group asks for intervention as Jones, Ramey resign

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July 20, 2011 | 3,098 views | Post a comment

The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association reaffirms the need for federal intervention on July 13, with the announcement of the resignation of Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) chairman Tom Jones on July 11, this following the June 29 resignation of the CBB CEO Tom Ramey.

According to a July 13 cattlemen’s press release, this action is strong evidence that the Secretary of Agriculture and Congress must intervene in the national mandatory beef check-off before the program suffers irreparable harm.

Jones was elected chairman of the beef board in February of this year. The CBB vice chairman, Wes Grau of Grady, N.M., will serve as chairman until the CBB meeting in Florida on Thursday, Aug. 4, when the full beef board will determine further action.

“It is unprecedented in the check-off’s history for the CEO and chairman of the CBB to resign their positions almost simultaneously and under pressure from the check-off’s primary contractor,” said Jon Wooster, president of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association. “These are extremely unfortunate times for the beef check-off and they require intervention by the regulating agency,” he said.

On July 1, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack requesting a full investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Marketing Service into emerging check-off contractor compliance and funding management issues, as well as events surrounding the resignation of Ramey.

“Enough is enough,” Wooster said in a July 1 U.S. Cattlemen’s Association press release. “The beef check-off’s majority contractor has engaged in a public campaign attacking the CBB staff and leadership, demanding their resignations or involuntary removal. These tactics have culminated in the resignation of the beef board’s CEO on June 29, a critical blow to the Beef Check-off Program,” he said.

In early June, the beef board members received an update on the check-off contractor compliance review of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association for the period of 2008-10. The update reveals that the total misappropriated check-off funds by the beef association now exceed more than $305,000 and even more issues are under review.

The most recent compliance review update includes tens of thousands of dollars in registration fees improperly credited to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association for an event paid for by the beef check-off and more than $8,000 in travel and overhead expenses improperly charged to the check-off.

Meeting minutes from the 2010-11 Cattlemen’s Beef Board Executive Committee show that the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association CEO apparently committed check-off funds under contract to Gaylord Properties for a Washington, D.C.-based joint conference site without the approval of the beef board’s executive committee. Meeting minutes also reflect that the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association CEO excluded the CBB from contract negotiations with Gaylord Properties despite being directed by the CBB Executive Committee that the beef board would not participate in a Washington, D.C., conference because of increased costs to the check-off. The penalty alone for breaking the Gaylord Properties contract was $200,000, and the minutes reflect that the CBB legal counsel advised the executive committee that contractual obligations would be the responsibility of both the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Policy and Check-off Divisions.

“These financial transgressions have been shrouded from public discussion by NCBA’s [National Cattlemen’s Beef Association] actions earlier this year to file charges of misconduct against CBB leadership and staff,” Wooster said.

“It is abundantly clear that NCBA is not willing to take any steps whatsoever to embrace the structure changes needed to strengthen financial firewalls and restore producer faith and trust. Therefore, USCA [U.S. Cattlemen’s Association] has called on the Secretary to intervene and to initiate a full-blown investigation of the ongoing irregularities.”

Visit www.uscattlemen.org to read the U.S. Cattlemen’s letter to Secretary Vilsack.

Misappropriated check-off funds by the beef association now exceed more than $305,000.

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