Myths and Facts of the Oklahoma Beef Checkoff

Oklahoma Beef Council

Beef Checkoff

MYTH:  The Oklahoma Beef Council has so much money, at the end of the year, it just writes a check and sends the money to national organizations.  

FACT:  At the beginning of the year, the Oklahoma Beef Council sets a budget based upon opportunities presented in Oklahoma, nationally and internationally.  Yes, the OBC invests in the Federation of State Beef Councils.  Oklahoma represents less than 1.2% of the US population, so the OBC invests in the Federation to help amplify national programs in promotions, consumer information, industry information, research and international marketing.  To put this in perspective, Los Angeles has a greater population than the entire state of Oklahoma, so it just makes sense that the Oklahoma Beef Council invests in driving beef sales in states with large populations relative to their checkoff collections.  

MYTH: The beef checkoff only supports big agribusiness interests.

FACT: The beef checkoff works for both small and big beef producers. The beef checkoff’s primary goal is to grow beef demand, plain and simple, and it is important to understand and monitor beef demand as it directly influences overall beef industry prosperity. When beef demand strengthens, beef and cattle prices for the entire industry increase.

When Oklahoma beef checkoff dollars, in just five weeks, help drive 40,000 consumers to the “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner” website or ensures the Beef Checkoff’s 101 beef cooking videos are seen 1 million times by consumers, this creates more beef purchases. When the Oklahoma Beef Council hosts speakers on science-based, beef-friendly topics at health professional events, physicians and dietitians feel more comfortable recommending beef to their patients and clients. When the Oklahoma Beef Council sponsors a teacher’s tour of beef farms and ranches, this encourages teachers to improve agriculture literacy within the Oklahoma school system. These programs benefit ALL beef producers, regardless of the size of a producer’s operation.

MYTH: The beef checkoff only supports large ranchers.

FACT: Oklahoma Beef Council (OBC) board members represent all sizes of operations -- from those who pay thousands of dollars a year in checkoff dollars, to those who pay less than $100. This is typical of state beef councils across the country.

When a consumer goes into a grocery store or restaurant, beef is not differentiated by “Big Rancher Beef” or “Small Rancher Beef.” When the OBC receives a call for local beef, staff immediately sends them to the “Made in Oklahoma” website so they can find a rancher providing locker beef direct to the consumer. Beef is beef, whether it’s raised by a larger producer or a small one.

MYTH: Cattle Feeders don’t pay the Beef Checkoff

FACT: By law, all beef producers selling cattle or calves, for any reason and regardless of age or sex, must pay $1 per head to support beef/veal promotion, research and information through the Beef Promotion and Research Act, which is the 1985 enabling legislation for the Beef Checkoff Program. This includes all segments from cow-calf to feeder plus veal and dairy.

In addition, the checkoff is collected at the same rate on every live beef animal imported and at the equivalent rate of $1-per-head on all beef products that are imported.

MYTH: The Beef Checkoff can work on “trade deals.”

FACT: The beef checkoff cannot lobby or take positions on "trade deals." What the Beef Checkoff can do is promote US beef sales and market development in 80 countries around the world. Beef checkoff investments in the international market have been key to adding value to producer's bottom line. Currently, the export market is adding $270+/head of added value to fed cattle slaughter. When the beef checkoff invests in international marketing, our dollars are matched up to three and four times through government and industry resources greatly expanding the impact of the Beef Checkoff. Additionally, the export market provides the opportunity to maximize the value of the US beef carcass ensuring higher US cattle prices.

Embezzlement

MYTH: The Oklahoma Beef Council was not audited.

FACT: The OBC was audited annually by a third-party accounting firm, including three audits in one year. Morton’s fraud went undetected.

MYTH: The Oklahoma Beef Council did nothing to address the theft.

FACT: As soon as the fraud was discovered, the OBC immediately fired Morton and began an internal investigation, including a full forensic assessment and analysis with the assistance of an outside accounting firm. The OBC also  cooperated fully with federal investigators throughout the criminal investigation, which included the Office of Inspector General of USDA. Morton has pled guilty and OBC is waiting her sentencing and justice to be served.  The OBC also has a $2.6 million civil judgment against Morton. 

Unfortunately, the OBC has been hampered in communication efforts due to ongoing legal matters. While Morton was the one engaged in the fraud, one should understand the OBC is aggressively engaged in additional recovery and restitution efforts and will continue those efforts until our organization has recovered as fully as possible.

MYTH: The Oklahoma Beef Council did nothing to address its accounting procedures.

FACT: The OBC has taken numerous steps to ensure the integrity of the Beef Checkoff in Oklahoma and a greater level of accountability. Those steps started with a detailed forensic analysis performed by an outside accounting firm. Through such analysis and the assistance of professional, we have developed a robust accounting procedures, including:

  • Contracts with a third-party accounting firm with circulating accountants for all accounting services
  • Operates with a five-step review process for monthly financials
  • Utilizes positive pay, an automated fraud detection tool
  • Instituted an Audit/Risk committee with an independent advisor of significant audit experience
  • Employs a director of compliance to provide oversight of beef checkoff collections
  • Continues to be audited annually

In the past fourteen months, the Oklahoma Beef Council has experienced one forensic assessment and analysis of the years involved with the embezzlement, and two additional audits.

Vote Yes Campaign

MYTH: The Oklahoma Beef Council is illegally involved with the Vote Yes Campaign for an additional dollar/head.

FACT: The Oklahoma Beef Council is not involved nor has it funded the Vote Yes beef checkoff referendum process in Oklahoma. The campaign is led by a coalition of Oklahoma beef and agriculture organizations.

MYTH: The referendum by the coalition of Oklahoma beef and agriculture organizations is being done to help the Oklahoma Beef Council recover funds.

FACT: The referendum process in Oklahoma began more than a year before the Oklahoma Beef Council discovered fraud in its organization.

It's important to know, today's beef checkoff has 41% of buying power it did in 1988.  If you look at overall media costs since 1998, they have increased in value three and a half times.  Today, the beef industry has far more challenges today from misinformation on health, animal care and nutrition to quickly changing consumer dynamics and increased competition in the export market.  To learn more about Oklahoma Beef Checkoff programs focused on driving beef demand, click here.    


The Oklahoma Beef Council has posted a list of the oversight steps on our website under Cattlemen’s Corner, where you can also find the FY 2016 Statement of Activities and Final Report of programs. The next annual audit by a third-party accounting firm will be in January of 2018, and the OBC will share this information at the completion of the audit.