Drovers: OCM Stands Firm in Quest for Checkoff Transparency

by Joe Maxwell, Executive Director, Organization For Competitive Markets | September 12, 2018

The op-ed, “HSUS, R-CALF, OCM: Guilt by Association?”, raises questions and makes false insinuations about the relationship between the two organizations and OCM’s sources of funding, according to Joe Maxwell. (Wyatt Bechtel)

Editor’s note: The following commentary is in response to “HSUS, R-CALF, OCM: Guilt by Association?“, a commentary by Kate Miller, published by Drovers. The opinions in the commentary below are those of Joe Maxwell.

The Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) has been open and transparent about our relationship with The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and will continue to be. The op-ed article, “HSUS, R-CALF, OCM: Guilt by Association?” printed on 9/11/18, raises questions and makes false insinuations about the relationship between the two organizations and OCM’s sources of funding. OCM would like to set the record straight.

Several years ago OCM came to the realization that there were no longer enough family farmers and ranchers left in America to bring about the policy changes necessary for family farmers and rural communities to thrive and for U.S. consumers to have a food system that provides them with choices at a fair price.

Therefore, OCM started a national collaboration. The OCM national collaboration’s goal is to find common ground among unlikely allies, lifting this expanded base of family farmer supporters as one voice against abusive corporate agriculture interests and the economic and political stranglehold they have on our markets and government.

One such collaboration is with HSUS. Some eight years ago, an independent audit of the equivalent of just nine days of Beef Checkoff Program spending uncovered misappropriations of farmers’ and ranchers’ mandatory checkoff assessments totaling over $200,000 by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), a beef industry trade and lobbying organization. OCM needed legal assistance and reached out to HSUS, an organization with a demonstrated interest in the area and the legal resources to represent OCM in an effort to reveal how the full $80 million in federal checkoff assessments were being spent. HSUS has stood firm with OCM in a five-year-long court battle to uncover the truth.

Just this month, both NCBA and USDA once again refused to deliver the Beef Checkoff financial records to the court. But one thing is for sure. OCM will not stop fighting until every farmer and rancher has access to how their tax dollars are being spent by NCBA.

In addition to its pro bono legal assistance to OCM, HSUS has provided the following monetary support: 2012 OCM Conference Sponsor at $750; 2013 Conference Sponsor at $300; and 2017 Conference Sponsor at $750. In 2017, three HSUS employees made individual membership payments to OCM at $125 each. That combined $2,175 in contributions and HSUS’ pro bono representation of OCM in its checkoff lawsuit is the extent of the support OCM has received from HSUS.

OCM attributes its recent growth to the fact that we have demonstrated to farmers, ranchers, and those organizations that support America’s family farmers that we do not back down from anyone, especially those corporations and organizations that work against the interest of family farmers and against a just and fair food system. Over the last two years OCM has seen its budget increase from $46,000 in 2016 to over $200,000 in 2018. This growth is attributed to memberships, donors, and foundation funding. OCM is thankful for each and every one who has helped fund this growth and for those who have taken action on behalf of OCM.

OCM is going to continue to build coalitions and work with others who share our common goals, whether it be liberals, conservatives, labor unions, worker justice organizations, conservationists, faith groups, consumer groups or animal welfare organizations. We may not agree with collaborators on every issue, but we find common ground in supporting independent family farmers and ranchers and opposing exploitative corporate monopolies. Together, OCM and its national collaboration are fighting for meaningful checkoff program reform, fair and just food purchasing practices, and the restoration of anti-monopoly safeguards in our market.

Joe Maxwell is an American family farmer and an advocate for economic justice through anti-monopoly reform. He is the executive director of the Organization for Competitive Markets.