Beef Checkoff Case (R-CALF USA v. Perdue)
We are lead counsel on behalf of the nation’s largest organization of independent cattle producers, R-CALF USA, in a suit raising a First Amendment challenge to the administration of the beef checkoff in Montana. We are arguing that although the federal government mandates all ranchers pay a $1 tax on each head of cattle to promote beef consumption, the government has failed to properly regulate how that money has been spent.
In Montana, the government has turned over 50 cents of each $1 collected to the private Montana Beef Council, which has worked with a multi-national corporation to promote their interests over those of independent ranchers. For example, the Montana Beef Council has used the checkoff money to advertise for the fast-food chain Wendy’s, which does not commit to buying meat from Montana or even United States ranchers. Thus we argue that checkoff is a form of compelled speech.
We won an injunction against the collection of checkoff funds in Montana on those grounds, which was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in April 2018. Now we are 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 as well. In a supplemental pleading filed in August 2018, we wrote “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.”