By Kent Pruismann
The Jan. 23 article (“Something to beef about?”) about the beef industry’s Beef Checkoff Program didn’t fully recognize the depth and extent of program oversight and transparency, both by the government and internally.
I’m a beef producer and member of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board Audit Committee, which spends hours reviewing documents and helping direct audits, with access to the auditors of financial documents and to staff.
CBB systems and internal controls are in place to assure money is spent properly. Time and financial spending by our contractors, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, are scrutinized monthly to make sure no checkoff funds goes to that organization’s policy efforts. Independent auditors also review time, spending and
The government also heavily is involved in oversight. For example, the Agricultural Marketing Service of USDA spent a week at CBB offices this past summer reviewing financial reports, invoices and program records to make sure the Beef Board is operating within the requirements of the Beef Act and Order. They found it is. This kind of review will happen at least every three years.
In the spring of 2013, the Office of Inspector General at USDA conducted an exhaustive review of relationships between the CBB and other industry-related organizations, including NCBA. They found these relationships complied with the Act and Order, with funds collected, distributed and expended in accordance with checkoff legislation. An OIG audit of all commodity programs was conducted in 2012, and a “peer review” audit of the recent Beef Board audit is ongoing.
The bottom line is that no checkoff dollars go to fund NCBA lobbying work on issues such as Country of Origin Labeling. All NCBA policy efforts are funded by members.
When working on checkoff programs, NCBA and other contractors work on a cost-recovery basis only. That means they cannot profit from their work, only recover their direct and staff costs for conducting the programs. Like all other contractors, NCBA must present a proposal and budget to the Beef Promotion Operating Committee for consideration and approval. Once approved by the BPOC, the work must be approved by the Beef Board and then by USDA.
Beef checkoff programs are supported by 75 percent of beef producers. Yet some critics may never be satisfied, regardless of how well the program is managed or supervised or how successful the program is in building beef demand, which helps all beef producers, big or small.
For 28 years (not 18 years, as stated in your article) we have been stuck at the same level of funding per animal — $1 for checkoff research, education and promotion programs. Despite increased costs, a smaller cow herd producing fewer revenues and cost-of-living increases that mean a dollar buys about half of what it did in 1986, the Beef Checkoff Program has, in my opinion, been a positive force for progress in our industry.
Kent Pruismann of Rock Valley is a cattlefeeder representing Iowa on the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (www.mybeefcheckoff.com for more information about the beef checkoff). He is past president, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association. Comments: email@example.com