Calling the expansion of the lawsuit against the beef checkoff to include 13 more states disappointing, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) reaffirmed it will continue to defend the checkoff.
“The phony allegations being perpetuated by R-CALF and its activist legal partners are without merit and only serve to divide beef producers and distract beef councils from the important work of building demand for our products,” NCBA said in a statement.
On Monday, the federal district court in Montana granted R-CALF’s motion to expand its beef checkoff lawsuit against USDA to include 13 more states, in addition to Montana.
Expressing disagreement with the ruling, NCBA CEO Kendal Frazier said, “The simple fact is that regular audits of the beef checkoff and NCBA have found both to be compliant with the laws governing the checkoff. Two audits conducted by USDA’s Office of the Inspector General have also come back clean. R-CALF’s accusations to the contrary are false. R-CALF has become nothing more than a front group for activists seeking to divide the industry, lessen beef demand and drive producers out of business.”
R-CALF filed the lawsuit last year, alleging the Montana Beef Council (MBC) is a private entity and therefore violates the First Amendment rights of Montana cattlemen by using the checkoff to fund speech some do not agree with. Early this year the court granted a preliminary injunction against the MBC which was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in April. Under the injunction, the $1 per head beef checkoff is still collected, and the money is sent to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. Montana ranchers who wish for half of their dollar to go to the Montana Beef Council must complete a producer consent form, and the CBB then sends the money back to Montana.
Monday’s ruling allows the lawsuit to expand to state beef councils in the following states: Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin.
NCBA, however, says accusations that checkoff money invested in the Federation of State Beef Councils is being misused are false. In its statement, NCBA said it has a longstanding commitment to the beef checkoff and the state beef councils, whose collections and demand-building work pre-date the federal checkoff. NCBA is firm in its commitment to defend both the checkoff and state beef councils against outside attacks. Further, NCBA said the volunteer cattlemen and cattlewomen who serve on state beef council boards do not deserve the attacks being leveled by activist groups.
“It has been repeatedly demonstrated that these attacks by R-CALF are being aided by allies at the Humane Society of the United States, Food and Water Watch, Public Justice and other activist organizations that stand against cattlemen and women,” NCBA’s statement says. “These groups know that beef demand is increasing in the United States and abroad, in part due to work funded by the checkoff. These achievements make the beef checkoff and other agriculture industry self-help mechanisms a target for organizations and individuals driving a vegetarian agenda.”
“It’s unfortunate that R-CALF has chosen to become a puppet in the war being waged by animal rights activists and the vegetarians seeking to drive beef producers out of business,” Frazier said. “Let’s be clear, though, the groups aligning with R-CALF are choosing a future with shrinking beef demand, less opportunity and more government involvement. That’s not the future NCBA members choose, so we will defend the beef checkoff and cattle producers against these attacks.”
R-CALF USA filed its lawsuit against the Montana Beef Council in May of 2016, alleging the Beef Checkoff Program violates the First Amendment rights of Montana cattlemen. A preliminary injunction was imposed by U.S. District Judge Brian Morris, and upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in April, barring MBC from using checkoff funds unless prior consent is obtained from the cattlemen paying the checkoff. In October, 2018, the federal court allowed R-CALF to expand the suit to include beef councils from 13 additional states. Additional information can be found at the links below.