At their annual meeting Thursday, the Organization for Competitive Markets announced partnership with the Humane Society of the United States to tackle what they deem "misuse" of beef checkoff funds on the part of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
The suit will seek an injunction against NCBA's control of the beef checkoff, a program that assesses a $1 per head fee that is intended to be used for beef promotion and education.
The plaintiff, Mike Callicrate, owner of Callicrate Cattle Co., St. Francis, Kan., is supported by the OCM. The suit names the Cattlemen's Beef Board, USDA, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service and the Beef Promotion Operating Committee as defendants.
During the announcement of the suit, OCM President Fred Stokes said the organization filed a freedom of information request regarding the use of checkoff funds, and believes that there is misuse of funds.
NCBA President J.D. Alexander stood by the checkoff, citing independent research that indicates nearly 75% of cattlemen and women support it, but Stokes said cattle producers were funding their own misery.
"Since the beef checkoff program was commenced 26 years ago, there has been collected and spent $1.6 billion dollars, we have reduced our cattle herd to a 60 year low, we have lost 40% of our producers," Stokes said.
However, Alexander returned to the partnership with HSUS, and chastised OCM for allowing it.
"HSUS is an organization going state by state vowing to end production agriculture by outlawing scientifically validated production practices in animal agriculture. Their efforts put people out of business and often jeopardize the well-being of livestock," Alexander said.
But, Stokes said that the partnership with the HSUS was a means to remedy "the picture of gloom for independent, family agriculture." Stokes explained that discussion about partnership with HSUS began in March during a meeting in Omaha, Neb., when the OCM and others gathered to discuss litigation for improvement of livestock policies and inequities in the marketplace.
Stokes said HSUS Director for Rural Development and Outreach Joe Maxwell was present at the meeting, and suggested that HSUS could assist the OCM with their litigation plans.
"He [Maxwell] said he thought that the Humane Society understood that the family farmer and the rancher was kinder to farm animals than the corporate farms and the gigantic farmers, so they hosted a face-to-face meeting in Washington, D.C., and picked up the tab for the people attending, travel and associated expenses," Stokes explained.
Stokes further defended OCM support of HSUS, and said he thought they [HSUS] have done things that makes OCM believe that they really want to be involved with a coalition that will see that independent family agriculture remains.
"We are very eager to accept that support," Stokes said. "Every cowboy out there owes a deep debt of gratitude to the Humane Society of the United States. It's time to set aside your chores…and put a dog in the fight."