Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Beef checkoff CEO Tom Ramey resigns

The Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB) chief executive officer (CEO) Tom Ramey resigned this week, throwing the checkoff program into turmoil.

The independent beefcheckoff blog pointed out that, during Ramey's time as CEO, the beef board investigated billing errors and financial misappropriation by the industry's powerful trade association, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA):
On March 24 of this year, NCBA leadership filed charges of misconduct with the CBB Executive Committee against CBB leadership. The sequence of events speaks for itself. Who wins with this resignation? NOT checkoff-paying cattle producers.
Congress should hold hearings to investigate the beef checkoff program, DTN ag policy editor Chris Clayton suggested this week.  The beef checkoff is the semi-governmental program that collects a mandatory assessment or tax from beef producers and sponsors advertisements such as "Beef.  It's What's for Dinner."

Clayton describes the intensifying arguments between the CBB (which is appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture to oversee the checkoff funds) and the NCBA (which eventually receives about 90% of the checkoff program's $70-$80 million annual funding stream by serving as a contractor to carry out the program's operations).
Recent documents from the Cattlemen's Beef Board and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association reveal a wide-ranging rift over possible reforms and changes to the checkoff. Columnist Alan Guebert highlighted those problems last month, and posted related documents on his website.
Over the years, U.S. Food Policy has given extensive coverage to the strange world of federal government checkoff programs. For more information, see the long archives under the checkoff tag and, for a discussion of the tensions with federal dietary guidance, a 2006 article in the journal Obesity.

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