NCBA, CBB work together at summer meetingWritten by Christy Martinez
The beef checkoff’s financial firewall at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is functioning as it should, according to officials of both NCBA and the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB), which oversees the beef checkoff program.
Echoing that statement, producers from Wyoming who attended the recent NCBA convention in Kissimmee, Fla. say amiable feelings dominated the event and its various meetings.
In the past there has been conflict between the two organizations after last year’s audit of checkoff finances at NCBA found time and expense coding discrepancies.
“It was an excellent meeting – calm and uneventful,” says CBB member Spencer Ellis of Lovell.
“We had a good meeting, with good process, and people were courteous and we had good discussions,” says NCBA Vice President Scott George, a Cody dairy producer, noting that there’s been much concern over finances between the NCBA and CBB over the checkoff.
“We expect our contractors to submit correct invoices, and the check on that is the Beef Board, which reviews, approves and refunds the money,” explains George. “That’s the check and the balance.”
George says that in the last audit there were 8,500 codes used by NCBA to meet Beef Board requirements.
“There’s a huge potential for error because we have so many different projects and fields, and when someone codes one thing one way and it goes through and is approved, they assume it was the right code,” he continues. “When two years later they go back and say it’s incorrect, then we’ve got a problem.”
To resolve the issue, NCBA and CBB have agreed that every invoice will be completely reviewed every month.
“We found out that before the Beef Board was only checking samplings, so some things fell through the cracks,” says George. “There were some errors getting through, and, because we’ve made errors, people have had confusion over the safety of the checkoff.”
In addition, NCBA has also hired a compliance officer.
“The Meat Export Federation had a review like this one several years ago, and in response they’ve hired a compliance officer, and we’ve taken a page from their book,” says George. “His job is to make sure all the work is properly coded, and that the Ts are crossed and the Is are dotted, and he trumps everybody in our organization. He is an ultimate authority on those expenditures, so we hope we won’t ever have an audit like this again.”
George says getting those issues resolved is a huge benefit, as is the CBB’s acting CEO Polly Ruhland.
“Polly used to work for NCBA years ago, so she understands what it’s like to run projects, and how the coding has to work. Now she’s on the administrative end, and she’s worked with CBB for several years. She’s an asset because she understands both sides of the issue,” says George. “She’s there to make sure things are done right.”
Wyoming Beef Council Executive Director Ann Wittmann says conflict surrounding the CBB’s Roles and Responsibilities document was resolved before the meeting, and the rules were passed as amended.
“They came out about a week before the meeting with some serious changes to those, after taking comments from beef council and state affiliates, and they really did address a lot of the concerns, so it was very positive,” she says.
Federation of State Beef Councils member Jim Graves of Wheatland says he thinks the strength of the Roles and Responsibilities are their ability to better advertise beef, which is “what it’s all about.”
George says NCBA has remained relatively silent in the media because the organization was first trying to resolve the issue. He adds that NCBA leadership told its membership that, although there’s been much negative criticism, they won’t sit by any longer, and that if slanderous statements are made against NCBA, it will take action against them.
“From NCBA’s perspective, as far as our relationship with CBB, we feel like it’s going very well,” says George. “They’ve elected some new officers who want to do the right thing, which is what we want to do. We’re looking forward to working with them.”
Wittmann says the groups were able to focus more on programs and less on issues at this summer meeting.
“That’s what we’re about, and I felt very encouraged for the industry,” she notes. “The committees were highly focused on what we’ve accomplished and what we want to accomplish.”
Federation of State Beef Council member Jim Rogers of Laramie, who is on the producer education committee, says all the meetings he attended were cordial and went well.
“In the producer education committee we’re looking at some things like a study on the affect of antibiotics in animals versus humans,” notes Rogers.
Federation of State Beef Councils member Dianne Kirkbride of Cheyenne, a member of the new products committee, says her group talked about new development in the round and chuck, including the round petite tender.
“We sampled it, and it’s amazing what flavor it has,” she says, adding that the chuck shoulder tender is also in development.
“Our big success story is the flat iron steak, and you’re seeing that everywhere, in varying qualities of restaurants and in the grocery store, and it came out of the shoulder clod,” she comments.
“The whole point is to take care of the checkoff and do the best job we can, doing whatever we can, to promote beef,” says Kirkbride.
“NCBA is a committed partner with CBB in working to assure that beef demand is strengthened,” says NCBA CEO Forrest Roberts. “Our goal is to conduct programs that help beef producers establish successful operations to pass on to their sons and daughters.”