Both Arabian and Chinese proverbs are credited with the philosophy that, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."
But just how low will someone - or group - stoop to find a friend?
That question was answered today when the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) announced that platoons of lawyers at the anti-livestock, vegetarian advocate group Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) had helped OCM 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. 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, although Stokes said that direction "might be broadened later."
The promotion arm of NCBA - the former Beef Industry Council of the Meat Board (BIC)- began specific beef promotion, research and education work for the old voluntary red meat check off in 1963. After the passage by cattlemen voting in a referendum in the mid-'80s, the BIC was made a part of the new National Cattlemen's Beef Association, by merging with the National Cattlemen's Association.
Originally slated for filing Thursday, Stokes said the group plans to file Friday, Aug. 10, 2012. Exact details of the suit, the brief or comments from attorneys involved were not available at Thursday's news conference because the suit had not been filed.
Stokes said his group had filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request awhile 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 a cadre of advising attorneys persuaded OCM that a lawsuit based on the FOIA information and a 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.
Stokes did not mention the irony of a 252-lawyer division (Kansas City) of a 600-attorney law firm handling a case for a very small group of self-described small family farmers and ranchers against all the rest of the nation's cattlemen, most of whom are also family farmers, ranchers and feeders.
Stokes also mentioned that he expects the USDA's Inspector General to issue a report next month over a year in the making. He expected it to be "watered down," but was hopeful that something from that report added to the group's FOIA information might lead to a "recall of the check off." Stokes also alluded to other lawsuits OCM is contemplating, including another antitrust suit.