R Calf USA Seeks to Rope in Three Largest State Beef Councls and Ten More- Asking Federal Judge to Expand Current Court Order Against Montana Beef Council- UpdatedFri, 10 Aug 2018 03:29:43 CDT
UPDATED- The group that has slowed the promotion, research and education work of the Beef Checkoff in Montana is expanding their war on the self help program by asking for a preliminary injunction on the state beef council's part of the checkoff to 13 additional states. The lead legal counsel in this war on the checkoff is Food Project Attorney David Muraskin, who is lead counsel in two of the “Ag-gag” cases in North Carolina brought by several groups, including PETA- a series of challenges to state laws that penalize investigations of factory farming. In that role, he secured the first appellate court decision holding that those investigations are protected by the First Amendment.
R-Calf USA is going back to U.S. District Judge Brian Morris in Montana- hoping to expand the court order and potentially cripple the work of the additional 13 Beef Councils at the state level.
The list of states in the litigation announced on Thursday by R Calf includes the three largest beef checkoff states (in terms of dollars remitted to the Beef Board)- Texas, Kansas and Nebraska. Together, they sent $12.328 million dollars to the Beef Board in Fiscal Year 2017, 36% of the monies submitted from qualified state beef councils. Based on the Checkoff rules that has the qaulified State Beef Councils keeping fifty cents of every dollar they collect, that would mean a similar amount would be up for grabs because of this attack on these three key state beef councils by R-CALF USA. The current injunction has required the Montana Beef Council to send all of the collected dollar to the Beef Board- and then get their part of the dollar that was submitted by producers who then give a written okay for the state council to utilize it.
National independent rancher group Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) today moved to expand their legal campaign to end the unconstitutional administration of the Beef Checkoff program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The current injunction against collection of checkoff funds, upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in April, only applies to collection of checkoff funds in Montana. R-CALF USA is now asking for a halt to checkoff funds in Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
"R-CALF members, including those in Montana, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin, object to being required to turn over their hard-earned money to fund private speech with which they disagree and cannot influence", reads the supplemental pleading in the case filed today. Click or tap here to read the complete request filed in the Montana Federal District Court.
The Beef Checkoff is a federal tax that compels producers to pay $1 per head every time cattle are sold, half of which is used to fund the advertisements of private state beef councils, like the Montana Beef Council. The Montana Beef Council is a private corporation whose members include representatives of the largest multinational beef packers, and the USDA has admitted as much over the course of this litigation. Public Justice is lead counsel in this constitutional challenge.
R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard claims "The checkoff program has weakened the U.S. cattle industry by helping importers capture a greater share of our domestic market, and now the courts have found that USDA facilitated this by violating the constitutional rights of cattle producers. It is imperative that we proceed to protect the constitutional rights of cattle producers in these other states by stopping USDA from forcing them to fund private speech that undermines their financial and economic interests."
Montana's Beef Council, for example, promotes the message that there is no difference between domestic beef produced under U.S. food safety laws and beef produced in foreign countries. It has paid for advertisements for the fast-food chain Wendy's, for example, to promote hamburgers that use North American beef, meaning beef that can come from anywhere on the continent, but not necessarily Montana or even the United States.
"Our side in this fight has the momentum, and we are using it to help bring relief to ranchers in these thirteen states who are currently being compelled to subsidize the speech of multinational corporations regardless of their wishes. Today's supplemental pleading is the next step towards reform of the nation's entire Beef Checkoff system that has become a tool for corporate consolidation and control, harming independent farmers," said Food Project Attorney David Muraskin, lead attorney in the case.
In addition to Muraskin, R-CALF USA is also represented in its checkoff case by J. Dudley Butler, of the Farm and Ranch Law Group, and Bill Rossbach of Rossbach Law, P.C. in Missoula, Montana.
Note- the Oklahoma Farm Report asked for comments on this latest legal action from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, who has the Federation of State Beef Councils as a part of its structure- and the NCBA indicated that they will not comment since the litgation is ongoing.
Source- R-Calf USA
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