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The Center's Press Release

Beef Checkoff, requiring mandatory beef promotion, including messages such as: "Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner," declared unconstitutional.



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Contact: Eric Schippers

Ph: 703-535-5836

June 25, 2002

Beef Checkoff Declared Unconstitutional

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- In a case with broad implications for the nation’s agricultural commodity promotion programs, on June 21, 2002, U.S. District Judge Charles Kornmann in South Dakota struck down the federal Beef Promotion and Research Act, which is responsible for the beef checkoff and messages such as: "Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner."

Following are statements by the Center for Individual Freedom and attorneys on the decision in Livestock Marketing Association v. USDA:

Eric Schippers, Executive Director of the Center, said:

"This decision comes as welcome relief to thousands of cattle ranchers, farmers and dairy producers around the country who are courageously fighting to preserve their First Amendment rights against mandatory checkoff programs.

"We applaud the efforts of the LMA and Western Organization of Resource Councils in bringing this suit. We believe the decision is an encouraging sign for pending suits against the beef checkoff in U.S. District Court in Billings, Montana and the dairy checkoff in U.S. District Court in Scranton, Pennsylvania."

Erik S. Jaffe, attorney for independent Montana cattle ranchers Steve and Jeanne Charter in Charter v. USDA, said:

"This ruling confirms what we have said all along. Namely, that the mushroom checkoff is materially indistinguishable from the beef checkoff, and both programs constitute compelled support for speech in violation of the First Amendment.

"We are looking for a similar outcome in our case against the beef checkoff in Montana. In fact, we hope for an even more thorough repudiation of the Beef Act, given the broader range of objections the Charters have to the Act and the more extensive relief they have sought. While the South Dakota decision is laudable in its legal analysis, it still, unfortunately, allows millions of dollars of unconstitutionally collected money to be spent in violation of the First Amendment."

Benjamin F. Yale, attorney for dairy farmers Joseph and Brenda Cochran in Cochran v. Veneman, said:

"We are particularly pleased that Judge Kornmann addressed and directly refuted the notion that checkoff programs constitute government speech. That is a novel defense that has never been accepted by any appellate court. Only now, in response to the United Foods mushroom decision, does the government raise it as a defense. The facts are that dairy farmers such as the Cochrans are illegally compelled to support other dairy farmers’ speech, and as Judge Kornmann wisely observed, ‘Congress cannot legislatively extend the power to a private group to abridge First Amendment rights.’"

To read copies of the legal briefs filed in Charter v. USDA and Cochran v. Veneman, visit the Center’s website at

Founded in 1998, the Center for Individual Freedom is a non-partisan, non-profit organization with the mission to protect and defend individual freedoms and individual rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

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