R-CALF USA has expanded their legal campaign to end the Beef Checkoff program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The national independent rancher group is now asking for a halt to checkoff funds in Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin as well.
“R-CALF members, including those in Montana, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin, object to being required to turn over their hard-earned money to fund private speech with which they disagree and cannot influence”, reads the supplemental pleading in the case filed.
The Beef Checkoff is a federal tax that compels producers to pay $1 per head every time cattle are sold, half of which is used to fund the advertisements of private 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.
“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,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.
R-CALF USA contends that the Montana’s Beef Council promotes the message that there is no difference between domestic beef produced under U.S. food safety laws and beef produced in foreign countries. The group says the council 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.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said the “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.”
Although NCBA is not a party to the litigation, the association said their support for the Beef Checkoff is unwavering.
“We will stand with the state beef councils and help defend them against the attacks being orchestrated by R-CALF and its activist allies, who are aligned with the Humane Society of the United States and other anti-agriculture organizations.”