BILLINGS, Mont. – The Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) will appeal a Montana magistrate judge’s ruling granting summary judgment to the US Dept. of Agriculture and 15 federal beef checkoff programs. That decision will be forwarded to the federal district court for a final ruling.

Bill Bullard, R-CALF CEO, said, “We will now submit our formal objections to the U.S. federal court judge and trust he will analyze this issue carefully.”

Bullard added that the organization’s lawsuit prompted USDA to issue a final rule authorizing beef producers to redirect their checkoff assessments to the national program when allowed by state law.

In a court document filed in May 2019, R-CALF also alleged that state checkoff programs have been keeping half of the assessments to fund private speech by third-party groups that support the consolidation of the cattle and beef industry, which R-CALF opposes. The organization argued that beef checkoff practices are unconstitutional because the state councils promote beef regardless of how or where animals were raised, and R-CALF and its members are injured by this “private speech.”

The states named in the lawsuit are Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Federal checkoff programs are mandatory participation programs administered by USDA. The programs are funded by compulsory fees on beef, pork and other producers of agricultural products. Beef producers pay $1 per head of cattle sold.