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Agricultural News

Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco Affirms Legality of Beef Checkoff- Dismissing Claims of R-CALF

Wed, 28 Jul 2021 06:06:54 CDT

Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco Affirms Legality of Beef Checkoff- Dismissing Claims of R-CALF In a court case that was originally filed in 2016, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco affirmed the U.S. Department of Agriculture's summary judgment win against R-Calf USA challenging assessments on cattle sales that fund industry groups' pro-beef consumption advertisements, holding in a published opinion Tuesday the advertisements are government speech exempt from First Amendment scrutiny.

In their opinion Tuesday, the panel affirmed a lower court's grant of summary judgment to the USDA, rejecting a challenge by the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America, or R-CALF USA, to the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985 - which imposes a $1 mandatory assessment or a "checkoff" on each head of cattle sold in the U.S. to fund beef consumption promotional activities.

In 2020, a federal court ruled that the qualified state beef checkoff (QSBC) programs operating under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the UDSA do not violate the First Amendment and dismissed the lawsuit brought by R-CALF.

The agreements with qualified state beef councils, include Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

While R-CALF USA's suit was pending, MOUs were entered requiring all advertising utilizing beef checkoff funds to be pre-approved by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Under the MOUs, however, the state beef councils were permitted to make non-contractual transfers of beef checkoff funds to third parties for promotional materials without requiring pre-approval by the Secretary of Agriculture.

Read more at: https://www.law360.com/articles/1407231?copied=1

In the Summary Judgement document- it is noted that "R-CALF uses some 60% of its resources to educate producers on the use of checkoff funds by QSBCs" and that the money used in this litigation was aimed at arguing against the MOUs that State Beef Councils had signed with USDA. These agreements allow USDA to review all advertising and other materials developed with cfheckoff funds by the Councils before they are made public and used to promote beef.

According to the decision- the judges referred back to the original Beef Act of 1985- saying “Congress directed the establishment of the program itself, including its promotional activities,” (2) “Congress and the Secretary specify the general content of the promotional campaigns,” and (3) “the Secretary ‘exercises final approval authority over every word used in every promotional campaign."

Read the Ruling released on Tuesday by the Court by clicking on the PDF link below.




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