Responding to a request from the South Dakota federal district court, Livestock Marketing Association will amend its initial complaint seeking a beef checkoff referendum, to ask the court to address whether the checkoff is unconstitutional.

The court requested LMA and the other parties - the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Cattlemen's Beef Board and the Nebraska Cattlemen Association - to address the constitutionality of the beef checkoff in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in the mushroom checkoff case.

In a June 25 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that forcing mushroom producers to pay for advertising is invalid under the First Amendment. The district court asked both sides for their views on that case, saying that if the beef checkoff is unconstitutional, it doesn't make sense to conduct a referendum. LMA will file its amended complaint soon.

"We believe that as a matter of law, the beef and mushroom checkoffs are alike," said LMA President Patrick Goggins. "A great deal of our money has been spent trying to get producers a simple vote on a program they finance. But we can't justify continuing to pour our members' money into a campaign for a vote, where there is now a substantial question whether the program is constitutional."

"It's as if there's a bus leaving the station, heading for a referendum, "Goggins said. "But before we buy more tickets on that bus, we need to know if it has four flat tires."

"We are disappointed that the Livestock Marketing Association is changing
courtroom tactics, raising their lawsuit to a destructive new level by
challenging the constitutionality of commodity checkoffs," said Lynn Cornwell, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. "LMA's action indicates their intent is to terminate all state and national commodity checkoffs, including beef. This is frustrating considering the beef checkoff is producing such great benefits for cattlemen."

Goggins noted that when the mushroom checkoff case was before the Supreme Court, both USDA and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, which joined in an "amicus curiae" brief, took the position that the mushroom decision would affect the future of the beef checkoff.

"That's the issue which we're now presenting to the South Dakota court," he said.