TOPEKA, Kan. (news release) – The Kansas Livestock Association (KLA) has been collecting and expending $10 million dollars per year in violation of state and federal law, according to the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) and the Kansas Cattlemen’s Association (KCA).
A briefing paper released by the two groups today outlines how KLA has obtained funding through an improperly close affiliation with the Kansas Beef Council, which is charged with collecting $1 a head from every cattle transaction as part of the federally mandated Beef Checkoff Program. The groups also say KLA has refused to release financial information disclosing how these federally mandated funds are spent.
Following a comprehensive review of publicly available records, OCM concluded that these funds are being used to prop up KLA operations by contributing to office rental payments and employee salaries. Co-opting these funds allows KLA to gain undue influence in the legislative arena, although by law checkoff funds can only be used for non-legislative promotion and market-development activities. The briefing paper also explains how as much as $2 million dollars a year is being funneled from KLA to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), KLA’s national trade and lobbying affiliate, in a pay-to-play scheme that unjustly amplifies its legislative activities.
All told, OCM estimates that NCBA receives more than $37 million through similar pay-to-play arrangements with various state affiliates. This money is then used to promote the political interests of its members, which include meatpackers, rather than the interests of the cattle industry as a whole.
Greg Davis of the of the Kansas Cattlemen’s Association said, “We support the beef checkoff program, but we strongly object to the way it is being administered, the way it is being collected, and the total lack of transparency and accountability to the cattle producers who are forced to pay the federal tax. For years Kansas Cattlemen’s Association has voiced these concerns, but no one has taken one step to stop this injustice. We can only hope, based on the evidence in this briefing paper, that others in our government will hear our concerns and answer the call to end the taxpayer abuse. It is our fear that if this mess is not cleaned up soon, the majority of cattle producers will be calling for an end to the beef checkoff program.”
Joe Maxwell, Executive Director of the Organization for Competitive Markets, said, “It is just unimaginable that the state of Kansas is allowing this taxpayer abuse. A large part of these funds are federal tax dollars collected by this state agency. The state has a responsibility to administer these federally mandated funds, no differently than it does any other federal funds it receives. The state’s family farmers deserve no less.”
OCM and KCA are calling for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Cattlemen’s Beef Board to disqualify the Kansas Beef Council from collecting any further checkoff funds until a complete separation is established from KLA and all associated lobbying activities. If needed, the state legislature should enact legislation setting up a new collection authority that is fully transparent and equally representative of all Kansas cattle producers, the groups say.