APPEALS COURT WILL ALLOW BEEF CHECKOFF TO REMAIN FOR NOW
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently approved a request that will allow the Beef Checkoff Program to continue while the U.S. Department of Justice seeks Supreme Court review of a case challenging the program's constitutionality.
With the stay in place, producers must continue to pay the mandatory $1-per-head checkoff each time a bovine animal is sold as the case moves forward toward the Supreme Court.
In effect, the decision extends the stay on an injunction that District Judge Charles Kornmann of South Dakota issued in June 2002. The injunction called for ending the checkoff program on the grounds that it violates some cattle producers' First Amendment rights by forcing them to pay for beef promotion messages with which they do not agree.
Specifically, plaintiffs have complained that the checkoff promotes beef, in general, rather than just U.S. beef. Importers also pay the checkoff assessment.
The USDA and Department of Justice have stood strong behind the checkoff program throughout the legal challenge in the Eighth Circuit - brought by the Livestock Marketing Association (LMA), the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC), and three individuals in an earlier petition.
Defendants in the case include the USDA, the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board, and Nebraska Cattlemen, leading a group of producers as interveners in the case.
The Beef Checkoff Program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products.
States retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.
The checkoff assessment became mandatory when the program was approved by 79 percent of producers in a 1988 national referendum vote. Checkoff revenues may be used for promotion, education and research programs to improve the marketing climate for beef.