Lawsuit will seek to stop NCBA as a checkoff contractor

A lawsuit will be filed in federal court today seeking a permanent injunction against the use of beef checkoff funds by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association as a contractor. The suit will be filed on behalf of Mike Callicrate, plaintiff, vs the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB), and CBB's operating committee.

The lawsuit was announced at a press conference in Kansas City, MO, prior to the Organization for Competitive Market's (OCM) annual meeting by OCM president Fred Stokes. The lawsuit seeks an "injunction against the use of beef checkoff funds flowing to NCBA who we deem have misused those funds," Stokes said. He described the legal action as an effort to "stop the abuses occurring to the beef checkoff."

Callicrate is the owner of Ranch Foods Direct, a Colorado Springs-based "meat packing facility and local farmer's retail market delivering healthful, high quality, naturally tender meats and foods to consumers direct from the ranch," according to the firm's website. He is also an "independent cattle producer, entrepreneur, inventor and political activist."

Specifically, Callicrate, who serves as vice president of OCM, and Stokes claim a large majority of checkoff funded projects are directed to NCBA acting as a contractor to the Cattlemen's Beef Board. The suit alleges that the contracts are awarded to NCBA by the CBB operating committee in which "10 of the 20 seats" are occupied by NBCA members.

Additionally, Stokes believes that many of the projects funded by checkoff dollars are aimed at helping large cattle operations and large corporations rather than smaller, family cattle operations and farmers. He called the actions of the defendants named in the lawsuit "blatant abuses we think are offensive."

The lawsuit will not seek a temporary injunction, which is often a common request as the legal process unfolds. Rather, the Callicrate lawsuit would mean "business as usual" for both the CBB and NCBA until the court renders a verdict, which Callicrate and OCM hope will be a "permanent injunction."

Further, sources told Drovers/CattleNetwork that the lawsuit does not seek any monetary award, nor does it request any refund or reimbursement of checkoff funds that have already been allocated for projects conducted by NCBA.

For more information, read Commentary: OCM &; HSUS embrace to scuttle checkoff