Market owner must pay beef checkoff fees

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DENVER – USDA Administrative Law Judge Jill Clifton has ruled that Swansea, Mass., livestock market operator Herman Camara violated the Beef Promotion and Research Act and Order by failing to remit beef checkoff assessments.

At least some of the assessments had been collected from producers over a period of several years.

According to Steve Barratt, director of collections and compliance for the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, Judge Clifton concluded that Camara violated the order by failing to remit checkoff payments on cattle sold between February 1995 and April 2002.

Owes $48,000. Clifton ordered Camara to pay past-due checkoff assessments and accrued late-payment charges totaling $37,732, and additionally assessed an $11,000 civil penalty for the violations.

Camara has 30 days from Dec. 31, 2002, to file an appeal with the USDA’s judicial officer, which represent the appellate authority within the USDA.

If no appeal is filed within that timeframe, Clifton’s order becomes binding and effective five days later.

Last resort. Barratt said the charge by USDA represented a last resort to collect checkoff assessments required by law.

Though a number of cattle producers in various states have been cited for failure to pay the checkoff at times, most of those who willfully or accidentally fail to pay the assessment end up agreeing to comply before the process reaches this administrative level.

Since Camara’s nonpayment of the beef checkoff on repeated occasions in the mid to late 1990s, Barratt said, the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and the USDA made repeated attempts to prompt Camara to comply with the act and remit unpaid assessments, to no avail.

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