Sunday, June 25, 2017

Beef Council must get permission to use checkoff fees, judge rules

A federal judge has ruled that the Montana Beef Council should first get permission from ranchers to spend marketing fees it collects on behalf of the government, according to an ongoing First Amendment lawsuit. The ruling is part of a lawsuit brought last year by Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, or R-CALF USA, to challenge a fee program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris upheld an injunction that bars the Council from automatically collecting funds from the Beef Checkoff Program. The constitutional issue is whether or not the mandatory checkoff fees go toward private or public speech by the Council. Judge Morris wrote in his order that producers who disagree with the Council's advertising shouldn't be forced to subsidize it because the Council's ads are deemed private speech. "The government's statutorily authorized control over the Montana Beef Council appears inadequate to transform the Montana Beef Council's advertising into government speech," Morris wrote. Checkoff fees are the sole source of revenue for the Montana Beef Council, according to its executive director, Chaley Harney. The group took in about $929,111 in 2016 for its various promotional activities. Harney declined to comment specifically on the ongoing case, though the Council isn't a defendant. She did say that the Council doesn't specifically distinguish domestic beef in its advertising because the USDA's Beef Board is prohibited from doing so. The Council follows closely, or "mirrors," those federal rules, Harney said. The Council can still collect checkoff fees, however. But it must get "affirmative consent" from producers to get the money, according to the injunction. Harney said Friday that the Council is still determining how to follow the new rule...more

 The order is embedded below

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good ruling...Screw the beef board and their promotion of foreign beef. Are the producers so dense that they cannot understand that they are being hosed from every direction? Why the lack of self promotion? soapweed