The Kansas Cattlemen’s Association with the Organization for Competitive Markets called out the Kansas Livestock Association in a press release on Oct. 9 for the misuse of funds related to the federally mandated Beef Checkoff Program.
According to the release, KLA has violated state and federal law and “obtained funding through an improperly close affiliation with the Kansas Beef Council.” The groups outlined their argument in a briefing paper available online at https://competitivemarkets.com/briefing-paper-kansas-shell-game/. KCA and OCM raised concerns that checkoff funds were being used to “prop up KLA operations by contributing to office rental payments and employee salaries.”
KCA and OCM also claimed “KLA has refused to release financial information disclosing how these federally mandated funds are spent.”
“We support the beef checkoff program, but we strongly object to the way it is being administered, the way it is being collected, and the total lack of transparency and accountability to the cattle producers who are forced to pay the federal tax,” said Greg Davis, KCA president. “For years Kansas Cattlemen’s Association has voiced these concerns, but no one has taken one step to stop this injustice. We can only hope, based on the evidence in this briefing paper, that others in our government will hear our concerns and answer the call to end the taxpayer abuse. It is our fear that if this mess is not cleaned up soon, the majority of cattle producers will be calling for an end to the beef checkoff program.”
KCA and OCM stated the co-opting of checkoff funds allowed KLA “to gain undue influence in the legislative arena” despite checkoff funds are legally allowed to be used for promotion and market development activities. They also claimed as much as $2 million per year is provided to the KLA by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in a “pay-to-play scheme that unjustly amplifies its legislative activities” and promotes the interests of its members, including meatpackers, rather than the interests of the entire cattle industry.
Joe Maxwell, executive director of the Organization for Competitive Markets, said, “It is just unimaginable that the state of Kansas is allowing this taxpayer abuse. A large part of these funds are federal tax dollars collected by this state agency. The state has a responsibility to administer these federally mandated funds, no differently than it does any other federal funds it receives. The state’s family farmers deserve no less.”
The release called for the disqualification of the KBC to collect any further checkoff funds until it is separated from KLA and associated lobbying activities and possibly legislation that would create “a new collection authority that is fully transparent and equally representative of all Kansas cattle producers.”
KLA responded to the allegations as wrongful accusations and “a false narrative that is another attempt by the Humane Society of the U.S. to create discord among cattle producers and accomplish the ultimate goal of ending animal agriculture.” The organization pointed out OCM has documented ties to HSUS.
“It’s disappointing that an organization claiming to represent producers [KCA] has aligned itself with OCM, which has clear ties to a group [HSUS] that wants to put ranchers and feeders out of business,” said Matt Teagarden, KLA CEO.
In the KLA News and Market Report, Teagarden and Aaron Popelka, KLA vice president of legal affairs, explained the KBC was created within the framework of KLA in 1973 and is recognized by USDA and the Cattlemen’s Beef Board as a qualified collecting agent for the beef checkoff. The federal Beef Promotion Act and Order explicitly authorizes the kind of organizational structure used in Kansas. They also explained checkoff funds collected by KBC for beef promotion and research purposes are kept distinctively separate and are not used for any lobbying activities.
KLA also explained the KBC undergoes annual independent audits and periodic audits by the CBB and USDA to ensure compliance with the Beef Promotion Act and Order. All audits have found the organization to be in complete compliance.
Additionally, the Kansas Beef Council does publish an annual report showing how funding was spent, available online at https://www.kansasbeef.org/more-information/reporting-checkoff-dollars.