JUDGE RULES AGAINST BEEF CHECKOFF
A federal judge in South Dakota has ruled that the national beef research and promotion program, known as the checkoff, is unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Charles Kornmann ruled the checkoff violates cattle producers' constitutional rights by infringing on the First Amendment.
He also ordered collections for the program to stop as of July 15, 2002. Cattle producers must pay $1 per head on cattle produced in the United States. It is expected the decision will be appealed.
Kornmann ruled that cattlemen should not have to pay for commercials, which are a form of speech, if they oppose the payments.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS quoted Steve Pilcher, executive vice president, Montana Stockgrowers Association, saying, "This is a very disappointing decision for Montana's cattle producers. We are looking forward to a speedy and successful appeal of this decision, but in the meantime are concerned that the judge clearly didn't understand how critical the beef checkoff is to the future of our beef businesses."
Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman said she was disappointed in the ruling. USDA "regards such programs, when properly administered, as effective tools for market enhancement." Her statement continued, "The beef promotion program in particular has helped beef demand to increase and has contributed to increased U.S. beef exports. These results have led to support for the program by a majority of beef producers."
She said USDA officials are consulting with the Department of Justice to ""determine next steps.""