Last week, the USDA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued an audit report essentially clearing the Beef Board and NCBA of any violations of laws regulating checkoff spending, and soon after, R-CALF USA called the report a “colossal whitewash."

The dispute dates back to 2010, when an audit uncovered significant accounting errors and misappropriation of checkoff funds at NCBA totaling over $200,000 – money intended for checkoff contracts but spent on activities the audit determined should have been paid for by NCBA membership dues. The issue caused quite a rift between some Beef Board and NCBA officers at the time. But after NCBA reviewed its accounts, admitted the errors, agreed to refund the money and tighten the “firewall” between checkoff and dues-funded programs, the groups made up, and USDA accepted their plan to resolve the issue.

R-CALF, however, was not satisfied and called on USDA to freeze all checkoff accounts managed or controlled by NCBA, suspend the checkoff contract between NCBA and the CBB and conduct an investigation into the matter.

The OIG conducted their audit, and “determined that the relationship between the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board (beef board) and other industry-related organizations, including the beef board’s primary contractor, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), complied with legislation.” The OIG report goes on to say investigators found no evidence of misuse of funds, saying checkoff money was collected, distributed and expended in accordance with the legislation.”

In response, R-CALF sent an April 5 letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and USDA Inspector General Phyllis Fong, calling the report a "colossal whitewash of monumental proportions." The group also accused USDA of corruption. “Only within an agency fraught with corruption and cronyism can a conclusive finding that the NCBA had improperly charged the beef checkoff fund hundreds of thousands of dollars nevertheless result in a conclusion by USDA that NCBA is guilty of no wrong doing. The agency’s pronouncement that such is the case defies any semblance of logic, impartiality and credibility.”

 R-CALF USA urged USDA to denounce the OIG report as a colossal political sham and whitewash; to permanently suspend the NCBA's eligibility as a checkoff contractor; to require a complete separation between the NCBA and the Federation of State Beef Councils; to clarify that no lobbying group is eligible to contract for beef checkoff funds; and, to amend the beef checkoff program so the CBB can contract directly to carry out beef checkoff programs.

Read the full text of the R-CALF complaint.