Thursday, January 29, 2004


USDA says high court to get beef checkoff appeal

The Bush administration will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling that a government-run beef marketing program is unconstitutional, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said on Thursday.

"The solicitor general has authorized a petition asking the Supreme Court to review and decide this case," Veneman said during remarks at a National Cattlemen's Beef Association annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.

A U.S. appeals court has ruled that the $80 million beef "checkoff" program violated farmers' First Amendment rights and should be terminated. But the court allowed the program, which funds advertising campaigns and other marketing tactics, to continue pending any further appeal.

Veneman said the Justice Department would file its petition to the Supreme Court by Feb. 13.

The program requires a contribution from U.S. farmers and ranchers of $1.00 for each head of cattle sold. Government checkoff programs, which have become a popular marketing tool for several agricultural commodities, have been challenged by small farmers who complain it is an unfair tax that favors large corporate producers.

The cornerstone of the beef checkoff program is an advertising campaign touting "Beef, It's What's For Dinner."


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