Billings, Mont. – In a complaint and request for investigation filed yesterday with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and United States Trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, R-CALF USA accused a major Beef Checkoff Program recipient, the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), of attempting to influence governmental policy and action.
The Beef Checkoff Program is a federal program that disseminates government speech by assessing every U.S. cattle rancher a $1 tax on every head of cattle they sell and then giving that tax money to organizations to promote domestic as well as imported beef. Documents show the USMEF recently received about $9 million in checkoff dollars.
Recipients of the checkoff tax are prohibited from using the tax money in any manner to influencing governmental policy or action.
However, an October 31, 2017 article in Meatingplace reported the CEO of the USMEF, Phil Seng, issued a warning about President Trump’s trade policies, particularly his stated policy option of potentially withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
R-CALF USA seeks an investigation to determine if Seng’s salary, office, communications services, or travel are cross-subsidized in any manner by Beef Checkoff Program tax dollars in direct violation of the federal Beef Checkoff Program.
The complaint states that unlike the multinational meatpackers whose interests the USMEF represents, America’s ranchers have been harmed for decades by the NAFTA-generated trade deficit in the trade of cattle, beef, beef variety meats and processed beef. The letter states that trade deficit was $3.8 billion in 2014, $4.9 billion in 2015, and $3 billion in 2016.
R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said that this is a striking example of the swamp that President Trump needs to drain.
“Here you have a government-subsidized organization, with its hands deep inside the government’s pockets, that is working in clear public view to undermine the very policy positions that President Trump was elected to fulfill.
“This needs to stop and we hope Secretary Perdue and Ambassador Lighthizer will put a stop to it right away,” Bullard concluded.