USCA - The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) today praised Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s response on the legalities of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s (NCBA) proposed governance model and its impact on the national mandatory beef checkoff program.

In a letter dated May 17 to NCBA President Steve Fogelsong, Vilsack firmly outlined his concerns with NCBA’s proposed changes in governance structure concurring with points raised by USCA, and issued a stern warning to NCBA leadership about compliance with the law.

Since NCBA’s introduction of the proposed model, USCA has consistently argued that funds generated by the national beef checkoff program must support the interests of all producers, not just NCBA members, and that checkoff-paying producers must not be compelled to join any particular organization in order to have a voice in how their mandated checkoff assessments are used. On March 22, USCA and five other industry policy organizations sent a letter to Secretary Vilsack raising concerns with NCBA’s proposed changes in governance structure.

In his May 17 letter to NCBA Secretary Vilsack affirmed that to ensure proper use of checkoff funds and oversight any restructuring of NCBA’s governance that impacts the Federation of State Beef Councils must include the following:

• The Federation must be an independent organization, which is consistent with the structure and administration of other checkoff programs where there is a clear distinction between policy organizations and checkoff programs.
• All funding decisions related to checkoff activities must be made only by the Federation and the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, and not policy organizations.
• The Federation’s members who serve on the Beef Promotion Operating Committee are to be nominated and elected only by the Federation.
• Federation members must not vote on policy matters, nor be required to purchase a seat within a body that votes on policy.
• Checkoff funds cannot be used to purchase a seat in any policy organization.
• Regardless of structure, policy organizations should not be permitted to influence, determine outcomes, or vote on checkoff decisions.
• USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) has statutory and regulatory oversight of the Federation and Cattlemen’s Beef Board.

Further, Secretary Vilsack warned that failure to implement all of these firewalls would raise serious legal concerns as to whether the restructuring of NCBA complies with provisions of the Beef Promotion and Research Act and Order.

USCA President Jon Wooster, San Lucas, California said, "USCA is pleased to see the Secretary’s opinion addresses the concerns many cattlemen have had about the relationship between the NCBA and the Federation when their operating relationship changed with the formation of NCBA in 1996."

Established in March 2007, USCA is committed to concentrating its efforts in Washington, DC to enhance and expand the cattle industry’s voice on Capitol Hill. USCA has a full-time presence in Washington, giving cattle producers across the country a strong influence on policy development. For more information go to