It's Time to End the Checkoff Squabble

Farm Journal logo

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in his majority opinion upholding the constitutionality of the beef checkoff, wrote: “The message set out in the beef promotions is from beginning to end the message established by the Federal Government.”

Handed down in May 2005, Johanns v. Livestock Marketing Association confirmed the checkoff’s status as government speech. The vote brought together an unusual alliance of justices who often represented polar extremes. Voting with Scalia was Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Clarence Thomas, Stephen G. Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Some 13 years later, tensions remain high over America’s beef checkoff, with a new legal challenge that seeks to deliver a crippling blow to the state beef councils in 15 states (see Contentious Battle Continues Over the Beef Checkoff). The lawsuit was filed against the Montana Beef Council last year by Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF), alleging that state beef councils are private entities and are not subject to the ruling of the Supreme Court’s 2005 decision.

Defending this new case is USDA, the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). R-CALF is supported in its efforts by the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) and lead counsel David Muraskin of Public Justice.

imageOutside the courtroom, R-CALF and OCM have come under scrutiny for their ties to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), an animal rights organization with a history of legal battles seeking to undermine food animal production. Both R-CALF and OCM deny any relationship or monetary help from HSUS, though it’s clear Public Justice attorneys are on the case pro bono until—should they prevail—they can petition the court for their fees.

Despite denials of any relationship with HSUS, coincidental connections between the groups and its players are disturbing. For instance, “Public Justice is supported by trial lawyers and radical environmentalists,” says Rick Berman, executive director of the Center for Consumer Freedom. “One of its two food project attorneys formerly worked for HSUS. It’s outrageous that R-CALF is joining hands with a fanatical anti-agriculture activist group and their lawyers.”

Ironically, should R-CALF prevail in the case, checkoff collections will continue, though 15 states could lose control of their half of that money. Managing those funds would become the responsibility of the CBB, which would mean a smaller voice for local cattlemen, not a larger one.

Consumer demands are rapidly evolving. Twitter, for instance, didn’t exist when
Scalia declared the checkoff constitutional, and checkoff-funded programs such as social media campaigns are crucial today.

Logic suggests it is time to end the bitter industry infighting and legal maneuvers over the beef checkoff. 


Related Content:

No Smear Campaign, Unpaid Whistle Blower Retorts

Public Justice Attorney Claims "Smear Campaign" Against R-CALF and OCM

OCM Stands Firm in Quest for Checkoff Transparency

HSUS, R-CALF, OCM: Guilt by Association?



Latest News

CAB Insider: Carcass Value Shifts, a Sign of the Times

Jan. fed cattle prices are normally choppy and we’re seeing that pattern in 2021. A primary difference, compared to 2020, is that last week’s average price is $14/cwt. lower, the same discount as the 5-year average.

18 min ago
Black Ink: Valued Partners

Partnerships aren’t always about a 50/50 business arrangement or who gets what tasks, sometimes they’re simply about having a vested interest in somebody else’s success.

12 min ago
One former Secretary of Agriculture thinks a Biden Administration and USDA will focus more on crafting a farm bill that includes a focus on conservation.
Why a Biden Administration May Not Buy into the Green New Deal

As President Joe Biden took office Wednesday, one former Secretary of Agriculture thinks a Biden Administration and USDA will focus more on helping craft a farm bill that focuses on conservation.

2 hours ago
As wild pigs continue to expand out of control in Canada, the risk of wild pigs moving into the U.S. is very real. This is especially true for North Dakota and Montana, but given how mobile feral swine are, the risks are far beyond that, says Ryan Brook of the University of Saskatchewan. 
Canada Fights Back Against Out-of-Control Wild Pig Population

Wild pig populations in Canada continue to expand rapidly and are completely out of control in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta. A new tool may help control this invasive species. Here's why you should take note.

1 hour ago
Tyson Settles Anti-trust Case For $221.5 Million

Tyson Foods has agreed to pay a settlement of $221.5 million in the broiler chicken antitrust civil price-fixing lawsuit, according to filings Tuesday in federal court in Chicago.

40 min ago
Three Keys to Quality Colostrum for Beef Calves

Calves are wholly dependent on colostrum from their mothers and the instant a calf is born, a clock begins ticking on its colostrum intake that can have lasting effects on its health and productivity

12 min ago