A Montana magistrate judge granted summary judgement Wednesday (Jan. 29, 2020) to the government and the 15 qualified state beef councils targeted in the R-CALF vs. Sonny Perdue lawsuit. That decision will now be forwarded to the federal district court for a final ruling, a process that may take months or longer. It could continue to be appealed by either party after the district court judge issues an opinion.
A statement issued by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association called today’s ruling “an important victory helping ensure cattlemen and cattlewomen will continue to direct how checkoff investments are made at the state level.”
NCBA Chief Executive Officer Colin Woodall said, “We are pleased with today’s opinion, which allows state beef councils to continue the important work of beef promotion and research. Although this case is far from complete, this was a crucial step toward ensuring state beef councils retain the important ability to direct their investments at the grassroots level.”
In May of last year R-CALF USA had asked Montana’s federal district court to declare the beef checkoff in 15 states unconstitutional, contending the state beef councils are private corporations that have been keeping half of all the mandatory beef checkoff assessments collected within their states to fund their private speech. R-CALF, through its legal counsel Public Justice, argued the beef councils’ actions violated the First Amendment.
The states named were: Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
Following today’s ruling, Woodall said, “The beef checkoff continues to provide important benefits for cattle producers in the form of research and promotion that returns nearly $12 for every dollar invested in the program. The Beef Checkoff is weakened, and the benefits it provides our industry are put in jeopardy, by lawsuits such as this one. We’re committed to defending state beef councils from these attacks and ensuring producers at the grassroots level continue to determine how checkoff dollars are invested in their states.”