Contact: R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard
Phone: 406-252-2516; firstname.lastname@example.org
Billings, Mont. – In a paper issued today titled “The Montana Checkoff Decision: Beneficial Impacts on Montana Ranchers,” ranch group R-CALF USA explains how the federal district court ruling in its beef checkoff lawsuit empowers Montana Ranchers.
The group’s lawsuit centered on a constitutional question: Under the U.S. Constitution, can the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) compel Montana ranchers to subsidize the private speech of the Montana Beef Council without first obtaining the affirmative consent from each rancher?
In answer to that question, the federal district court issued a preliminary injunction that enjoins the USDA from using money collected from Montana ranchers to fund the advertising campaigns of the Montana Beef Council unless Montana ranchers first give their affirmative consent.
The first three beneficial impacts listed by the group stem directly from the preliminary injunction: “The constitutional right of every Montana rancher has been upheld,” the group wrote. As a result, the paper suggests the Montana Beef Council is now accountable to Montana ranchers and is now part of the competitive, free market system in which it must compete for the voluntary contributions from ranchers.
The paper further suggests there is a bigger picture that Montana ranchers are now empowered to address, and this goes beyond the normal tendency to want to keep checkoff money in Montana. This bigger picture, according to the group, is whether the mandatory beef checkoff program is actually serving the interests of Montana ranchers.
“Because the Montana Beef Council is a microcosm of the National Beef Checkoff Program (Beef Checkoff), the decision by Montana ranchers to fund or not fund the Montana Beef Council will automatically reflect on the entire Beef Checkoff,” the paper states.
The group indicates the checkoff decision empowers Montana ranchers to send a strong message to Washington, D.C., about whether their interests are actually being served by the Beef Checkoff that promotes the message that all beef is the same regardless of the country from which it originated and that financially supports the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), which is a private lobbying group.
The paper asserts that by not giving their consent to allow half their checkoff dollars to flow to the Montana Beef Council, Montana ranchers can send a powerful signal to Washington that they no longer support ‘business as usual,’ that they do not support the growing control that multination corporations have over their industry, and that they do not want to continue supporting the NCBA with their checkoff dollars.
The paper concludes “if Montana ranchers disagree with how the Beef Checkoff is operating and yet they still choose to send half of their money to the Montana Beef Council, then nothing will change – it will be business as usual at both the federal level and the state level, meaning ranchers will continue to pay into a system that doesn’t allow them to compete equally with the ever-growing volume of imported beef.”
R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is the largest producer-only cattle trade association in the United States. It is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle and sheep industries.