R-CALF seeks to stop checkoff in 13 states, while NCBA vows fight

The Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America recently moved to expand the injunction the group won against the collection of Beef Checkoff funds in Montana to 13 additional states.

R-CALF USA now seeks to expand the injunction, upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in April, to checkoff funds in Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin.

The supplemental pleading filed with the court, said the group objects “to being required to turn over their hard-earned money to fund private speech with which they disagree and cannot influence.”

The Beef Checkoff, created by all elements of the beef chain, has a mandatory $1 payment every time a beef animal is sold. R-CALF USA calls the payment a federal tax to fund the advertisements of state beef councils, like the Montana Beef Council. “The Montana Beef Council is a private corporation whose members include representatives of the largest multinational beef packers, and the USDA has admitted as much over the course of this litigation,” an R-CALF USA release said.

“Montana’s Beef Council, for example, promotes the message that there is no difference between domestic beef produced under U.S. food safety laws and beef produced in foreign countries. It has paid for advertisements for the fast-food chain Wendy’s, for example, to promote hamburgers that use North American beef, meaning beef that can come from anywhere on the continent, but not necessarily Montana or even the United States.”

R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said, “The checkoff program has weakened the U.S. cattle industry by helping importers capture a greater share of our domestic market, and now the courts have found that USDA facilitated this by violating the constitutional rights of cattle producers. It is imperative that we proceed to protect the constitutional rights of cattle producers in these other states by stopping USDA from forcing them to fund private speech that undermines their financial and economic interests.”

Support for checkoff

The main support group of the checkoff said it would work with the state beef councils involved to defend it.

In a recent release, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said it is “fully committed to the Beef Checkoff Program and the state beef councils who carry out necessary demand-building programs on behalf of the industry. For more than 50 years, state beef councils have been the cornerstone of beef promotion, enjoying widespread support from the vast majority of the beef producers who invest in the Beef Checkoff.

“This…attack by R-CALF and its activist partners on 13 additional state beef councils is nothing more than an attempt to broaden the damage they have caused in Montana. There they have already weakened the producer-directed programs that support beef demand and divided neighbors in a manner that undermines the best interests of the entire beef community.”

Larry Dreiling can be reached at 785-628-1117 or [email protected].