Ninth Circuit Court Upholds Beef Checkoff

by Colter Brown

On Tuesday, July 27 the US Ninth Circuit Court ruled against R-Calf, and in favor of the Montana Beef Council, affirming a lower district court’s summary judgment in the case of R-CALF versus Vilsack.

This was the case that R-CALF filed five years ago, to stop the Montana Beef Council from allocating Beef Checkoff dollars.

R-CALF first challenged the checkoff program in 2016, alleging that the distribution of funds to the Montana Beef Council under the federal program is an unconstitutional compelled subsidy of private speech.

The case caused sharp division in the cattle industry, as Northern Ag Network has reported many times in the past few years.

In March of 2020, the U.S. District Court ruled in favor of USDA and the Montana Beef Council with Judge Brian Morris ruling that as the Beef Council is operating under a Memorandum of Understanding with the USDA, that grants the federal government full oversight of the Beef Council’s promotions, it qualifies as government speech and thus dismissed the lawsuit.


In the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion, the panel upheld the lower court’s decision that the speech generated by the third parties for Beef promotional materials was “government speech”, and therefore is exempt from First Amendment scrutiny.

This affirms that Beef Promotional campaigns by the Qualified State Beef Councils and contracted third parties subject to the Secretary of Agriculture’s preapproval, therefore are considered “government speech”.

Members of the Montana Beef Council and supporters of the Beef Checkoff say they are pleased and relieved with this long-awaited decision.

 

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Northern Ag Network

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