For those looking forward to a relatively calm National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) summer meeting, this week’s release by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) of the audit, or compliance review, of NCBA’s checkoff expenditures made that notion a wistful thought.
Beginning with a hastily called NCBA news conference Thursday morning as the summer meeting unfolded in Denver, to meeting room and hallway discussion the rest of the day, it became apparent that the release of the compliance review is another iteration of an intra-industry conflict that has been going on for quite a while.
Welcome to the boiling point.
During its news conference, NCBA admitted that the audit report brought up some items that need to be addressed. NCBA CEO Forrest Roberts promised that the roughly $25,000 in question (or $37,000, depending on who you talk with) would be addressed quickly and appropriately, just as discrepancies in past audits have been addressed. Interestingly, NCBA president Steve Foglesong, an Illinois rancher and feeder, noted that in last year’s audit report, around $360,000 was identified as misappropriated – except these were expenditures coded to the policy side that should have been credited to the checkoff. The discrepancies were found and quietly corrected, as was the custom. That’s why companies and associations do audits, he says.
Moreover, the trio emphasized that never before had the audit results been made public in such a manner; results of the previous 13 audits were simply identified, discussed, fixed and procedures modified to make sure they didn’t happen again.
When one reporter asked if the industry should be suspicious of the timing of the audit release, given that the CBB’s executive committee in late June approved a motion recommending separation of the Federation of State Beef Councils (FSB) from NCBA, Foglesong responded: “The last audit was a contentious situation, as well. Back then, I and my officers met with the Beef Board over the $360,000 that was misappropriated. We wrote a few checks and squared the books. Did you all hear about that? You draw your own conclusions.”
By the way, during the press conference, Scott George, FSB chairman and a Cody, WY dairy producer, said his group didn’t appreciate being the rope in an industry tug of war. He says members of FSB, which is responsible for deciding how to spend state beef councils' shares of the beef checkoff, were to meet in a Friday forum. Subsequently, he anticipated formal action during a Saturday board meeting where “our federation will take a stand and will state publicly where they want to be.”
During the news conference, the message that came through, at least to me, is that internal industry politics are diverting from their jobs those folks who cattlemen entrust with the responsibility of moving the business forward. The emotion and passion around that idea were clearly evident several times during the news conference.
This whole little family squabble has devolved to a full-blown family shootin’ feud. There’s plenty of blame to go around and both organizations are culpable.
We have no objection to CBB and NCBA having problems with each other. However, it’s truly unfortunate, and ultimately destructive to the industry, that those problems and conflicts can’t be resolved in an adult manner.
The beef industry is poised for better times and has the potential for stronger growth than at any time in recent memory. For intra-industry politics to boil over now does no one any good.
Cattle producers deserve better from their elected industry leaders. It’s time for all involved to do what’s right for the industry they represent, it’s time for real leaders to emerge, and it’s time to stop these destructive actions.
To see the CBB media statement that started this controversy, click here. To see a copy of the CBB’s Executive Summary, click here. To see the full Compliance Review, click here. To see NCBA’s initial response, click here.