Kansas City, Mo. – South Dakota Federal District Judge Charles Kornmann has scheduled a hearing in Aberdeen, S.D., on Jan. 25, to review the Livestock Marketing Association’s (LMA) request for a preliminary injuction to halt the use of checkoff dollars to promote the checkoff back to producers.
LMA calls the practices “illegal,” and claims the Calttlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) has spent more than $10 million in checkoff dollars on the program since LMA started a petition drive in 1998 to call for a referendum on the checkoff. According to LMA president John Willis, calls the promotion campaign “nothing more than a pro-checkoff, feel-good public relations program clearly and illegally intended to shore up support for the beef checkoff in the face of LMA’s referendum campaign.” He noted the hearing will occur shortly after the U.S. Department of Agriculture is to receive a report on the petition signature validation process, by the national accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The report was due Jan. 16.
“We think this so-called validation process is seriously flawed and doubt that PwC can produce a credible report,” Willis says.
LMA believes the producer communication program being challenged was designed to persuade producers against signing petitions seeking a referendum, and to encourage producers to vote in favor of keeping the checkoff on any referendum. The suit alleges that the ads have not been used to provide financial information about checkoff expenditures, but instead are designed to advocate the position of those with a vested interest in continuing the checkoff.
LMA’s request for an injuction also asks that the CBB “make restitution to cattle producers” for the more than $10 million spent since 1998, and to fund “corrective communications to offset the anti-referendum messages previously funded” by the checkoff.
LMA’s injuction is part of its suit asking the court to order USDA Secretary Dan Glickman to “immediately conduct” a referendum on the checkoff. Joining in the suit, filed Dec. 29, is the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) and three South Dakota producers.