The federal district court in Montana granted the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers a motion to expand its beef checkoff program lawsuit to 13 states in addition to Montana. R-CALF USA asked to expand the case to include additional states where producers are also required “to pay for the private speech of their respective private beef councils without their consent.” Find out more about the lawsuit and the plans for expansion.
“The district court in Montana previously granted, and the appellate court recently upheld, a preliminary injunction temporarily stopping the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from violating the U.S. Constitution by compelling cattle producers in Montana to pay for the private speech of the private Montana Beef Council without first obtaining consent from producers,” R-CALF USA explained in the release.
The lawsuit expanded to include state beef councils in Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
The ruling does not apply the temporary injunction in effect in Montana to these states. Alternately, it allows R-CALF USA to continue on with the original case. Then, if the injunction against the USDA is successful, it will apply to the additional states.
The court granted the USDA 14 days to file an answer to the complaint.
The preliminary injunction allows cattle producers to decide if they want half the mandatory assessments collected from them to be sent to their respective beef council or all of it sent to the beef checkoff program’s Cattlemen’s Beef Board. Under the CBB, it is subject to government fiscal controls.
R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard stated they want producers to have a say in where their checkoff dollars go.
Bullard said state beef councils have been sending about $10 million in checkoff funds each year directly to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a political lobbying group. Those dollars fund NCBA’s Federation of State Beef Councils, and those monies are not subject to the same fiscal controls imposed on the CBB.
“By redirecting their money to the CBB rather than to their state beef councils, cattle producers can reduce the amount of money now flowing to the NCBA under the group’s pay-to-play scheme, which we believe is a form of money laundering,” said Bullard.
If the lawsuit is successful, all afore mentioned states will have their constitutional rights protected and will no longer be compelled to subsidize private or corporate speech.
NCBA Strikes Back
NCBA issued a statement denouncing R-CALF’s “phony allegations”. They stated the court decision is “a disappointment to countless beef producers and NCBA members across America”.
“The simple fact is that regular audits of the beef checkoff and NCBA have found both to be compliant with the laws governing the checkoff. Two audits conducted by USDA’s Office of the Inspector General have also come back clean. R-CALF’s accusations to the contrary are false,” said Kendal Frazier, NCBA Chief Executive Officer.
NCBA feels R-CALF is working with activist groups to weaken the beef checkoff. They feel the groups are trying to divide beef producers and distract beef councils.
“NCBA has a longstanding commitment to the beef checkoff and the state beef councils, whose collections and demand-building work pre-date the federal checkoff. NCBA is firm in its commitment to defend both the checkoff and state beef councils against outside attacks. The volunteer cattlemen and cattlewomen who serve on state beef council boards are committed to improving the beef business and demand for our products and they do not deserve the attacks being leveled by these activist groups,” NCBA said.
NCBA stated the attacks from R-CALF are being aided by the Humane Society of the United States, Food and Water Watch, Public Justice and other activist organizations. They feel the groups have sensed the growing demand for beef and are trying to attack the industry.
R-CALF USA expanded their lawsuit against the USDA. They want producers to have the ability to choose where their checkoff dollars are going. However, the NCBA is not staying silent. They think R-CALF is pairing with activists to counteract the growing demand for beef.
Image courtesy of beef2live.com