The Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) filed a complaint for injunctive relief, requesting the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make a final determination to a 2013 Freedom of Information Act request to release Beef Checkoff audit reports.
The lawsuit, Organization for Competitive Markets v. Office of Inspector General, filed Nov. 11 with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia follows an 18-month pursuit to obtain USDA Beef Checkoff records, stated OCM.
OCM – a national non-profit research organization governed by a board comprised of farmers, former state senator and past state agriculture organization presidents – submitted the Freedom of Information request after a 2010 OIG investigation reported irregularities in improper payment of the Beef Checkoff. As result the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association returned $200,000 to the checkoff program.
Still, OCM along with its alliances including R-CALF USA and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), question the outcome of OIG investigation.
OCM stated, “Unaddressed in the report was the glaring and fundamental conflict of interest created by NCBA having iron-fisted control of the Checkoff contract awarding process and using this control to consistently award more than 90% of the contracts to itself.”
According to OCM, after two years of investigating and generating more than 3,000 pages of report drafts, OIG released a scant, seventeen-page report that appeared wholly incompatible with the Clifton Gunderson findings.
Nevertheless, “OIG final decision state The Office of Inspector General (OIG) determined that the relationships between the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board (beef board) and other industry-related organizations … complied with legislation,” which raised red flags to OCM.
Following the troubling findings, OCM brought together a number of cattle industry organizations and individuals to form, the Beef Checkoff Reform Taskforce.
The complaint was filed by the attorneys of HSUS with court last week. HSUS attorneys are providing representation in furtherance of their work to reform the Beef Checkoff on behalf of organizations like OCM and to prevent misuses of the program for activities detrimental to animal welfare, according to the OCM media statement.