Lawsuit Targeting State Beef Checkoff Programs Dismissed
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and 15 state beef councils celebrated victory Friday when a federal judge tossed a lawsuit challenging the Beef Checkoff. A district judge in Montana threw out R-CALF USA’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of checkoff programs. R-CALF argued that requiring farmers to pay into state beef checkoff programs in Montana and 14 other states violated a producer’s right to free speech. However, judges agreed that a memorandum signed by the groups recognizing USDA’s oversight of their messaging made the state checkoffs “government speech” in a similar manner to the nationwide beef checkoff program. NCBA CEO Colin Woodall said that the victory would go a long way toward ensuring that Beef Checkoff investments would continue, and that state councils would still be able to collect and distribute checkoff funds for research, marketing, and promotion efforts. Meanwhile, R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard told DTN that his group might consider another appeal, saying that a magistrate judge had previously found the state boards in violation of cattle producers’ constitutional rights prior to the state boards signing their memos with USDA.