R-CALF USA: COOL Litigation Supported by Producer Checkoff Dollars
Billings, Mont. – At least three of the eight plaintiffs that filed a lawsuit July 8 against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) final country of origin labeling (COOL) rule have already directly received and/or are attempting to directly receive producer checkoff dollars.
According to a recent report by the USDA Office of Inspector General, Plaintiff National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) receives 82.5 percent of its funding directly from the Beef Checkoff Program. According to the website of the Beef Checkoff Program, in 2012, Plaintiff North American Meat Association (NAMA) requested a $390,000 Beef Checkoff Program contract. And, Plaintiff National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is a recipient of Pork Checkoff dollars.
Although federal law prohibits producer checkoff dollars from being used to influence public policy, R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said that is exactly what is going on in this COOL lawsuit.
"Either directly or indirectly, producer checkoff dollars are helping the meatpacker-lobby to fight against the widely popular COOL law that U.S. livestock producer and U.S. consumers successfully passed in 2002," said Bullard.
According to Bullard, producer checkoff dollars flowing to the NCBA and NPPC are the equivalent of "soft money" contributions in election campaigns.
"Although the NCBA may not be directly paying their COOL litigation expenses with checkoff funds, the checkoff funds allow it to offset a large portion of its organization’s administrative expenses, which allows it to devote its more limited non-checkoff money toward fighting COOL and other initiatives the multinational meatpackers do not like," said Bullard.
Bullard, referring to the COOL lawsuit as the meatpacker-lobby lawsuit, said the only reason it was filed was to help meatpackers exploit consumers by allowing them to source cheaper livestock from foreign countries while selling the resulting meat to unsuspecting consumers at the same price that domestic meat commands.
"The reason the NCBA and NPPC are fighting to help the meatpackers exploit consumers by attacking COOL is because they both have meatpackers seated on their governing boards, making them meatpacker trade groups rather than producer trade groups," Bullard commented.
"The meatpackers and their allies do not want U.S. farmers and ranchers to compete with their foreign counterparts in either Canada or Mexico," Bullard said adding, "By not allowing consumers to know where their meat was produced, meatpackers can undermine competition and unilaterally decide from what country to source their livestock. After all, without COOL consumers cannot initiate any competitive demand signals for livestock from the United States or from any other country. That privilege is bestowed exclusively on the meatpacker when COOL is not available.
"There can be no clearer example of deep-rooted government corruption than when, as here, you have an organization – the NCBA – that receives a super majority of its funding from a federal program and is nevertheless allowed to sue the federal government to stop a program that is widely supported by both U.S. consumers and U.S. producers.
"This is utterly outrageous and we hope our federal court system will recognize the despicable, self-serving motives of the NCBA and the rest of the plaintiffs in this case," concluded Bullard.
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R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is the largest producer-only cattle trade association in the United States. It is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.