Billings, Mont. – The District Court for the District of Montana has allowed the Montana Beef Council, Nebraska Beef Council, Pennsylvania Beef Council, Texas Beef Council, and three individuals to join in R-CALF USA’s beef checkoff lawsuit, a request made with R-CALF USA’s consent. The lawsuit was recently expanded to include 15 state beef councils, including those now joined as parties.
R-CALF USA explained in its response to the intervention request that the intervening state councils’ statement to the court confirm the beef checkoff program is being administrated in an unconstitutional manner, violating producers’ First Amendment rights. However, R-CALF USA stated it agreed to them entering the case so the court can have a full record of how the checkoff money is spent by these private entities.
In their request to join the case, the beef councils argued they are entitled to join because their interests in accessing and using beef checkoff money are different from those of the government. They explained they are entitled to retain “state-specific control” over the checkoff money, where the state activities are directed by a non-governmental board, without committing to input from all producers. R-CALF USA stated this is in direct contradiction to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) statements that it remedies the earlier constitutional problems with the beef checkoff program by requiring all councils to subject themselves to USDA review.
R-CALF USA also explained that for the beef checkoff program to be constitutional it must only produce government speech, which is speech controlled by the federal government, not subject to local or state control by nongovernmental entities. Therefore, R-CALF USA stated it would agree to the councils entering the case because their statements are proof that the councils are using producers’ checkoff tax dollars to fund private speech. As one example, R-CALF USA pointed out that the government did not agree to the councils’ request to join the case as parties. Yet, the councils have expended checkoff taxes to do just that.
The case will now go forward with the councils as intervening-Defendants. “This will allow R-CALF USA to uncover how the councils decide to expend checkoff dollars, helping producers be better informed about how their money is used or misused by the state beef councils,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.
Attorneys for R-CALF USA include lead counsel David Muraskin, a Food Project Attorney at Public Justice, J. Dudley Butler of Butler Farm and Ranch Law Group, PLLC, and Bill Rossbach of Rossbach Law, P.C. in Missoula, Montana.
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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 industry. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.