National Cattlemen's Beef Association:

DENVER(May 23, 2005) – The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that the Beef Checkoff Program is constitutional, thus allowing the program’s demand-building efforts to continue.  The decision overturns a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit that found the federal Beef Promotion and Research Act in violation of the First Amendment.  The checkoff has helped grow consumer demand for beef more than 25 percent since 1998 and has increased the prices that producers receive for their cattle.

“We are elated,” said Jim McAdams, an Adkins, Texas, cattleman and president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA).  “Throughout the lengthy litigation process, we believed in the merits of our case and the merits of the beef checkoff.”  He said, “We anticipated a positive decision.  This is a victory for all producers who want demand-building efforts in beef safety, nutrition and promotion continued.”

Cattlemen have supported a checkoff assessment since 1922.  January 2005 independent research indicates that a significant 73 percent of beef producers support the current $1-per-head beef checkoff program.  Upon the Supreme Court’s acceptance of the beef checkoff case in May 2004, an overwhelming 113 state and national beef industry and general agriculture organizations signed a friend-of-the-court amicus brief in support of the beef checkoff.  The brief was also signed by attorneys general from 35 states and Puerto Rico and the chairmen of both the U.S. House and Senate Agriculture Committees.

Myron Williams, a Wall, S.D., cattleman and chairman of the Federation of State Beef Councils Division of NCBA said, “It’s clear that a majority of cattlemen and agricultural groups recognize that checkoff programs are good for local beef industries and economies.”  He said, “Cattle-Fax estimates that the beef demand gain in just the past seven years has added about $250 per head to the value of fed cattle and $200 per head to the value of calves.  Consumers are willing to pay more for the high-quality beef we are producing.”

The beef checkoff has stimulated the development of more than 2,100 new beef products since 1998. Advertising tracking research indicates that the checkoff is improving consumer attitudes about beef’s nutritional value. And, the checkoff’s organized and proactive public response to a single case of BSE diagnosed in the U.S. has been credited with maintaining the high level of consumer confidence in the safety of U.S. beef.

Williams continued, “State beef councils and their Federation – a division of NCBA – arecommitted to protecting the brand equity built in the “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.®” campaign.”

“It is time now for industry groups to put aside their differences and move forward together,” concluded McAdams.

National Farmers Union

WASHINGTON (May  23, 2005) – National Farmers Union President Dave Frederickson made the following statement regarding today's Supreme Court Ruling : 

"Monday's  U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling by a 6 to 3 vote to uphold the beef checkoff program is both surprising and disappointing. 

The ruling is surprising because the Court ruled the mandatory beef checkoff program is a U.S. government program and the Constitution’s First Amendment free speech rights of producers funding the program do not apply. This contradicts mandatory checkoff proponents’ arguments that the program is run and controlled by the producers.

The disappointing aspect of the Supreme Court ruling is it does nothing to address the problems or controversies surrounding mandatory producer funded checkoff programs.  Issues such as accountability to producers who fund the programs, and access to open and fair referendums remain unresolved.  

Overall, the court’s ruling will only add to the continued controversies surrounding mandatory promotion programs." 

Iowa Cattlemen's Association

Ames, Iowa – The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, upheld the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985. The Supreme Court overturned lower court decisions by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. District Court for South Dakota, which ruled the measure unconstitutional.

“This decision gives beef producers the opportunity to continue promoting beef through the checkoff program. It also allows continuation of the advertising campaign ‘Beef, It's What's for Dinner’ that is recognized by nearly nine out of ten consumers,” said Bill Scheitler, a beef producer from LeMars, Iowa, and president of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association.

As a result of this decision, the Beef Checkoff Program will continue without interruption. USDA is reviewing this decision to determine its implications for other First Amendment challenges to checkoff programs.

Cattle producers have supported a checkoff assessment since 1922. Independent research in January 2005 indicated that 73 percent of beef producers support the current $1-per-head beef checkoff program.

In May 2004 when the Supreme Court accepted the beef checkoff case, an overwhelming 113 state and national beef industry and general agriculture organizations signed a friend-of-the-court amicus brief in support of the beef checkoff. Attorneys general from 35 states and Puerto Rico and the chairmen of both the U.S. House and Senate Agriculture Committees also signed the brief.

The mandatory program is funded by an assessment of $1 per head collected each time cattle are sold. All producers owning and marketing cattle, regardless of the size of their operation or the value of their cattle, must pay the assessment. A comparable assessment is collected on all imported cattle, beef and beef products.

Western Organization of Resource Councils

(BILLINGS, MONT.) The Supreme Court’s decision upholding the mandatory beef checkoff is a disappointment to cattle producers across the country, the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) said today.

The Court ruled against WORC and the Livestock Marketing Association (LMA) in today’s 6-3 decision, saying the mandatory beef checkoff is government speech and therefore does not violate the constitutional right to free speech. 

“We challenged the beef checkoff because it forces ranchers like me to pay for speech with which we disagree and to associate with organizations that oppose our best interests as independent cattle producers,” said Mabel Dobbs, a rancher from Weiser, Idaho, speaking for WORC.

“The Court has apparently ruled that the beef checkoff does not violate my free speech rights because it is a government program,” Dobbs said. “That’s news to me and most ranchers. We’ve long been told the beef checkoff is producer run, producer driven, and producer funded.”

In his dissenting opinion, Justice David Souter quoted Thomas Jefferson, who said in 1779, “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical.”

“We agree with Justice Souter, and with Thomas Jefferson,” said Dobbs. “We object to supporting the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which takes our money and promotes policies harmful to independent cattle producers.”

Dobbs said WORC supports mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling and reforming livestock markets. “The NCBA supports neither,” she said. 

NCBA has received 87 percent of its revenue in recent years from the checkoff. NCBA shares a building, staff, and a Web site with the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, the organization charged with administering the checkoff. NCBA is the primary recipient of checkoff-funded contracts from the Cattlemen’s Beef Board.

Created by Congress, the beef checkoff became mandatory in 1988. Since then, ranchers have paid one dollar on the sale of every head of cattle. Checkoff assessment revenue totals over $80 million annually from U.S. producers and importers. U.S. cattle producers have paid more than $1 billion since 1988. 

WORC and LMA sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in December 2000 after USDA rejected petitions signed by 140,000 cattle producers requesting a vote on the checkoff. The case was amended in August 2001 after the Supreme Court ended the mushroom checkoff. In June 2002, U.S. District Judge Charles Kornmann ruled the beef checkoff violated cattle producers’ First Amendment rights by compelling them to pay for speech with which they disagreed.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Kornmann’s decision in July 2003. Today’s Supreme Court decision reversed the lower court rulings by Judge Kornmann and the Eighth Circuit that the beef checkoff program was not government speech.

“We thank the Livestock Marketing Association and Professor Laurence Tribe, Phillip Olsson, Ronald Parsons, and all the attorneys who worked so hard on this case,” Dobbs said.

A chronology of the case and links to court filings and rulings are available at www.worc.org.

WORC is a network of grassroots organizations from seven states that includes 9,500 members and 45 local community groups. Based in Billings, Mont., WORC represents farmers, ranchers, and consumers in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Cattlemen's Beef Board

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (May 23, 2005) – The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the Beef Promotion and Research Act by a 6-3 vote today, ruling against the legal challenge brought by the Livestock Marketing Association (LMA), the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC), and three individuals.

Defendants in the case included USDA, the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and Nebraska Cattlemen, leading a group of producers as interveners in the case.

“Obviously, we are thrilled with the High Court’s decision,” said Cattlemen’s Beef Board Chairman Al Svajgr. “The Beef Checkoff Program is constitutional.”

Congress and the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture set out the overarching message for the Beef Checkoff Program when it created the Beef Promotion and Research Act, the opinion notes in reviewing the “government speech” defense presented by the U.S. Department of Justice. In addition, the Secretary appoints half of the members of the Beef Promotion and Operating Committee, and all 20 members of that committee – which approves specific checkoff programs – are subject to removal by the Secretary. In short, it notes: “The message of the promotional campaigns is effectively controlled by the Federal Government itself.”

With that in mind, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in delivering the opinion, the messages of the checkoff do constitute government speech and thus are not subject to the First Amendment challenges brought by the plaintiffs.

Svajgr, a producer from Cozad, Neb., said the ruling adds momentum to the board’s continued efforts to strengthen the position of beef in the marketplace through ongoing efforts such as the “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner” campaign and to expand uses for beef and beef products.

“We believe this is a victory for all cattlemen in the U.S.,” Svajgr said. “Now it is more critical than ever that we come together as an industry to support the checkoff’s educational, research and promotional programs aimed at increasing demand for beef at America’s dining tables. We would call on LMA and WORC to join us in these efforts, with an eye toward increasing long-term profitability for all segments of our industry.”

TexasBeef Leadership 

Texas beef industry leaders pledged to continue beef’s marketing momentum following the Supreme Court’s May 23 affirmation of the constitutionality of the national $1 per head beef checkoff program.  The checkoff is the beef industry’s marketing vehicle that created the “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner” advertising campaign and other demand-building programs to help cattle producers remain competitive in the national and international marketplace.

The Supreme Court Justices on a 6-3 vote reversed an earlier ruling by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

 “Texas beef producers applaud this positive decision by the nation’s highest court,” said beef producer Dan Dierschke of Austin, chairman of the Texas Beef Council, speaking on behalf of TBC’s 20-member board of directors.  “Texas is the No. 1 state in beef production, and this ruling is welcome news for our state’s industry and economy.”

During the years that beef producers have invested $1 per head in the checkoff, beef demand has turned the corner. U.S. beef demand has climbed more than 25 percent since 1998. The most recent estimates available from economic analysts at Cattle-Fax estimate that the increase in beef demand has added about $250 per head to the price of fed cattle and $200 to the price of a 500-pound steer.

Dierschke said TBC’s board of directors, made entirely of Texas beef producers appointed by Texas’ nine cattle and beef organizations, will continue to move forward with promotion, education and research programs. These programs will supplement national efforts to build beef demand in domestic and international markets.

“This ruling affirms that the checkoff program will continue to work for U.S. beef producers,” Dierschke said.  “Texas benefits from strong national and international markets, so it is a great success for our state’s industry to be able to retain the checkoff.”

TBC is one of 46 state beef councils charged with collecting and administering the $1 per head checkoff each time cattle are sold.  TBC annually collects an average of $12 million from Texas producers.  Approximately $9 million in Texas checkoff funds are invested each year in national checkoff marketing programs.  The remaining $3 million helps build beef demand in Texas.

NebraskaCattlemen 

(May 23, 200 5) LINCOLN, NE – The Nebraska Cattlemen is pleased the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that the Beef Checkoff Program is constitutional because it means the program’s demand-building efforts can continue.

Nebraska Cattlemen, leading a group of supportive producers intervening on behalf of the checkoff, was a defendant in the case along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board.

J.D. Alexander of Pilger  and George Cooksley of Anselmo, both past Nebraska Cattlemen presidents, observed the Supreme Court’s hearing of the case on Dec. 8, 2004, representing producers throughout Nebraska and across the country.

“It was an honor to be there to represent the strong majority of cattle producers who support the checkoff and wanted it to continue,” Alexander said. “We’re extremely pleased that the Court agreed with our view.”

Cooksley added, “Beef demand has increased 25 percent since 1998 and the checkoff funded efforts have been an important part of that growth.” 

Although NC, a membership dues-funded association, doesn’t have a financial stake in the checkoff’s future, it sees value in the beef industry’s promotion, education and research program. According to its member-established policy, the association’s position is to defend the checkoff aggressively with help from USDA, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, other state associations and individual producers.

Today’s decision overturns a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit that found the federal Beef Promotion and Research Act in violation of the First Amendment.  The checkoff has helped grow consumer demand for beef more than 25 percent since 1998 and has increased the prices that producers receive for their cattle.

The Nebraska Cattlemen association serves as the spokesman for the state’s beef cattle industry and represents professional cattle breeders, ranchers and feeders, as well as 48 county and local cattlemen’s associations. Its headquarters are in Lincoln and second office in Alliance serves cattlemen in western Nebraska.

This and other Nebraska Cattlemen information is available at www.nebraskacattlemen.org