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Farm Groups Call for Disqualification of Ohio Beef Council from Checkoff Program
Columbus, Ohio – A federally-recognized state agency has been utilizing farmers’ tax dollars to influence policy and elections, in violation of both state and federal law. Today, farm groups joined together to call for the disqualification of that agency, the Ohio Beef Council, from collecting and spending the federally-mandated tax assessments. The assessments, paid by farmers every time they sell a head of cattle, are mandated by law to be used for research, promotion, and development of markets for beef.
Pointing to ongoing illegal activities by the Ohio Beef Council, the Organization for Competitive Markets, Ohio Farmers Union, and Buckeye Quality Beef Association today called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Cattlemen’s Beef Board – the federal agencies that qualified the Ohio Beef Council – to disqualify it as the “Qualified State Beef Council” responsible for beef checkoff funds in Ohio. In a lettersent to officials, the groups outline the illegal activities, including:
Ohio Beef Council operates in conjunction with and on behalf of a private membership-based trade and lobbying entity, Ohio Cattlemen’s Association. The organizations share a headquarters, email domain, and phone numbers, and the staff members of both organizations are exactly the same and carry the same job titles.
The Ohio Cattlemen’s Association’s Political Action Committee brochure on its website provides the Ohio Beef Council is the point of contact for providing information about the PAC and collecting its political donations. In April 2018, the Ohio Beef Council used its email domain, ohiobeef.org, to circulate an invitation to a campaign fundraiser for a gubernatorial candidate on behalf of the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association.
The Ohio Beef Council annual report numbers, as shown in its own published report, simply do not add up. For example, the annual reports show a 2015 ending balance of $667,299 but the 2016 beginning balance is only $644,980, with $22,319 unaccounted for.
The letter concludes, “Ohio Beef Council’s illegal actions are the basis for the distrust so many American family farmers and ranchers have in their checkoff programs, and unfortunately, in our government.”
Meanwhile, the farm groups are advocating for checkoff program reform at the federal level in the form of two bipartisan pieces of legislation under consideration for the 2018 Farm Bill: The Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act, S. 741 & H.R. 1753, would prohibit lobbying, rein in conflicts of interest, and stop anti-competitive activities that harm other commodities and consumers. It would also force checkoff programs to publish their budgets and undergo periodic audits so that farmers and ranchers know where their hard-earned money is going. The Voluntary Checkoff Act, S. 740 & H.R. 1752, would ensure no farmer or rancher is forced to pay fees into programs that do not promote their market segment.