It’s one of the wackiest items found on the Internet. After years of wrangling, whining and criticizing, R-CALF has launched another lawsuit aimed at destroying your checkoff. This time they’ve taken a play straight out of the HSUS manifesto – targeting a single state with hopes of creating a domino effect.

The suit was filed in Montana and uses the Montana Beef Council as an example of a state organization using tax dollars to promote a message R-CALF doesn’t like.

R-CALF claims members are having their first amendment rights denied because ranchers are forced to pay into Montana’s Beef Council without a voice in their strategy. More than a decade ago, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, said the beef checkoff constitutes “government speech” that is not subject to the 1st Amendment.

Yet, a vocal minority of R-CALF-led ranchers continues to seek ways to undermine the checkoff, which funded research that produced the Flat Iron, Petite Tender and Ranch Steak, all from the shoulder clod. Those steaks are now offered in 20,000-plus restaurants, rather than being ground into hamburger as they were previously. Such programs are how the checkoff helps independent producers earn more for their cattle and stay in business.  Despite a long list of successes over 30 years, checkoff-deniers continue to spend far more of their money in attempts to derail the checkoff than it will ever cost them.

Poop for the protesters

When Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson joined a group of protesters near a proposed fracking site earlier this week, the farmer who leases the English land didn’t take kindly to their presence.

As Thompson and her sister Sophie took part in a satirical “bake-off” under a tent to highlight cuisine created with renewable energy for a Greenpeace video, the farmer added his own flavor to the ingredients.

He pulled his “honey wagon” down by the protesters and started spraying.

'Climate smart' ag

In the spring of 2015, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that his agency would engage in a “comprehensive set of voluntary programs and initiatives” to reduce greenhouse gases and sequester carbon in American soil. One year later, Vilsack announces that program, titled “Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry,” is receiving a $72.3 million shot in the arm. “American farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners are global leaders in conserving rural America's natural resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions," he says.

"With today's announcements, USDA is providing the necessary tools and resources called for under the President's Climate Action Plan so producers and landowners can successfully create economic opportunity and provide the food, fiber and energy needs of a growing global population.”

USDA funds beef genetics study

Genetics of beef cattle vary by region across the United States. Those differences develop over time as beef herds evolve in local environments. Jared Decker, University of Missouri Extension geneticist, will explore those DNA differences. From that, he says, better performances can be predicted. Decker and colleagues won a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to find genetic differences among regions.