Letter to the Editor

Checkoff concern

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dear Editor,

In response to Mr. Whipps's letter on the Beef Checkoff:

I am concerned by some of Mr. Whipps's comments.

He stated that the marketing plan of the Nebraska Beef Council (NBC) is approved by the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB). While this is a true statement, it does not give me comfort, since the Nebraska Beef Council and the CBB are both stacked with individuals whose primary loyalty is to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA). Last spring the Nebraska Beef Council tried to cast a unanimous ballot (despite the objection of two of its members) to support the NCBA's plan to reduce and restructure its board which was not in the best interests of the average checkoff-paying producer.

It was evident again at the summer meeting of NCBA in Denver. At that meeting, the NCBA loyalists on the CBB voted to strike wording from minutes of a CBB Executive Committee meeting which had called for separation of the Federation of Beef Councils from the NCBA. No public entity should be allowed to tamper with their minutes.

Whipps also said that Checkoff money could only be used for promotion, research and education. I agree with his statement, but last year the NBC spent $525,224 on promotion, $393,353 on research and $2,237,309 on something called "national investments." The "national investment' is the forking over of Nebraska's checkoff dollars to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association to buy seats on the Federation of State Beef Councils (which is the checkoff side of NCBA). Would this fall under education? Because we sure are getting one.

Also in 2008 the Executive Director for NBC (Ann Marie Bosshamer) sat on a search committee for NCBA to find and select a new executive director and chief executive officer for NCBA. Why is the Executive Director of the Nebraska Beef Council involved in NCBA's internal process? And where did the funding come from for Bosshamer's participation in that process? All these actions imply that separation and accountability are a sham and NCBA has its tentacles deeply intertwined in the checkoff funds paid by Nebraska's beef producers.

As for the compliance review and the "mistakes made," the review looked at less than one percent -- yes 1 percent -- and found $37,000 in "mistakes." If one assumes that this "mistake" percolated throughout the entire budget at the same rate, it would imply nearly $4,000,000 in mistakes. That is hardly a trivial amount of money. "Mistakes" of this nature do not provide a high degree of trust. Let's remember that some of these "mistakes" included paying for travel and entertainment for the spouse of the CEO. At the very least the NBC should quit sending additional funds that are mainly awarded to a contractor (NCBA) who can not seem to do math.

At its annual convention the members of the Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska (ICON), by resolution, called for the NBC to refrain from sending additional funds to the Federation of Beef Councils, and also urged the NBC to encourage a complete audit of NCBA by the CBB. ICON's resolution will be discussed at the Dec. 1 meeting in Kearney of NBC.

If the current board has no problem with this kind of activity and gross waste of money, then shame on them. I believe the Nebraska producers deserve better from their checkoff (which is a government-imposed tax on producers), and that is why I encourage all eligible voters to cast their ballot for the ICON candidates in each district. These individuals are tired of "business as usual" at the Nebraska Beef Council. They believe that when NBC sends money to the Federation, it empowers the directors. When we keep control of the money in Nebraska, we empower the producers. What say you producers?


Destry Brown

Cow/ Calf Producer &

Executive Director ICON

Hyannis, Nebraska

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