Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Friday, August 26, 2016
R-CALF USA’s Attorneys Seek Quick End to Beef Checkoff Lawsuit
In response to the government’s August motion to dismiss or stay the lawsuit R-CALF USA filed against the national beef checkoff program (Beef Checkoff) in May, late yesterday R-CALF USA’s attorneys asked the court to award R-CALF USA summary judgment and immediately end the program’s unconstitutional taxation of ranchers.
The group’s lawsuit alleges the government, represented by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is operating the Beef Checkoff in a manner that violates the U.S. Constitution. According to the lawsuit, the Beef Checkoff, which compels producers to pay $1 per head every time cattle are sold, is a federal tax that funds the private speech of the Montana Beef Council. The group states that the council’s private speech is objectionable because it promotes the message that there is no difference between domestic beef produced under U.S. food safety laws and beef produced in foreign countries.
Compelling citizens to subsidize private speech violates the First Amendment, the group says.
In its August motion, the government barely contested R-CALF USA’s claim that the checkoff had been an unconstitutional, compelled subsidy. Instead, USDA argued the subsidy was no longer compelled because the agency is currently promulgating a new rule that would allow producers in most states to petition their respective state beef councils to redirect checkoff dollars away from those private state councils and to the federal Beef Checkoff program, which is operated under the direct supervision of the USDA.
Citing the proposed rule, the government moved to either dismiss or to stay the case, saying it believes the disputed tax distribution will be resolved through its rulemaking process.
In R-CALF USA’s motion it states that the government’s proposed solution is woefully inadequate. The group asserts that a violation of the Constitution cannot be remedied by imposing an additional burden on independent cattle producers though an opt-out scheme. Instead, the Constitution requires the government first obtain the affirmative consent from those who are required to pay the federal cattle tax before it can use those taxes to fund private speech...more