Beef ruling threatens all checkoff programs; Cattlemen ask for Supreme Court to decide constitutionality.
The U.S. Department of Justice in mid-February asked the U.S. Supreme Court to decide if the beef checkoff program--and essentially all agricultural product checkoff programs--is constitutional.
The Justice Department, on behalf of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Cattlemens' Beef Promotion and Research Board, Centennial, Colo., asked the high court to hear an appeal of a 2002 decision by a U.S. Circuit Court in South Dakota. That court decided the mandatory $1 per head assessment on all cattle, payable by the producers, is unconstitutional. Two cattle producer groups and other agricultural checkoff programs are expected to file amicus briefs on behalf of the beef checkoff program.
The South Dakota suit was brought by the Livestock Marketing Association, Kansas City, in a long-running feud that predates the creation of the checkoff program as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. LMA earlier sought a referendum to end the beef program, but an accounting firm ruled its petition did nut have enough valid signatures to force a vote.
The Cattlemen's Beef Promotion Board released what it called an independent study at its January annual meeting that showed 70 percent of beef producers support the checkoff program, which funds a variety of promotional, research and educational programs, including the "Beef--it's what's for dinner" ad campaign.
"Producers seem to understand the value of their beef checkoff program," said Andy Tucker, chairman of the Cattlemen's Beef Board and a Florida cattleman. "Its value has never been more apparent than in the wake of the discovery of a single case of BSE in the U.S. Beef checkoff dollars were used to provide accurate, scientific information to consumers, media and producers is the issue broke."
Each side had until March 13 to make additional filings. The Supreme Court should decide sometime this spring if it will hear the case, although the actual hearing could take another year.
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|Date:||Mar 1, 2004|
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