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Ranchers and Center for Individual Freedom
Join Forces in Beef Checkoff Lawsuit

An independent cattle producing family in Montana and the Center for Individual Freedom (CIF) on August 7th filed briefs in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the mandatory beef promotion program.

The briefs, submitted in U.S. District Court in Billings, Montana, on behalf of Steve and Jeanne Charter, ask the court to freeze all existing beef checkoff assets and establish an escrow account for those assets and for future checkoff payments, pending the outcome of the case. In addition, the suit seeks a refund of past compelled payments, should the program be declared unconstitutional.

This suit follows the June 25 ruling by the US Supreme Court in United States v. United Foods, that it violates the First Amendment for the government to compel mushroom producers to pay for industry advertising.

The beef checkoff program — which claims to raise more than $80 million annually — is paid for by an assessment on beef producers of $1 per head of cattle sold. The program, enacted by Congress, has become increasingly controversial as independent ranchers have challenged the large waste of money, diversion of funds for inappropriate purposes, and advertising that benefits giant corporate packing houses and retailers at the expense of independent producers.

"We strongly object to being forced to fund the National Cattleman’s Beef Association’s (NCBA) and the Beef Board’s advertising, education and promotion programs," said Jeanne Charter. "Their messages fly in the face of everything we, as family cattle ranchers, stand for."

Eric Schippers, Executive Director of CIF said, "For the Charters and thousands of independent cattle producers like them, this lawsuit is about their livelihood. The program has been abused by an association that purports to speak for all cattle producers, but does not represent the diverse views and interests of small ranching families. For the Center for Individual Freedom, it is a pure First Amendment issue of compelled speech."

To read the Center’s press release, click here.

To read the legal briefs in this case, click below:

For more background on the Beef Checkoff program and legal efforts to overturn it, read "Gone in a Mushroom Cloud" by Lee Pitts, Executive Editor of Livestock Market Digest.

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