The Rancher’s Cattlemen’s Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF), filed suit May 2 in U.S. District Court in Montana, challenging the government’s oversight of the Beef Checkoff Program. R-CALF claims its members 1st Amendment rights are being denied because they are forced to pay into Montana’s Beef Council without a voice in its marketing strategy.

The national Beef Checkoff Program, which collected more than $80 million in FY 2015, is used unconstitutionally, R-CALF claims, to promote international beef. In a press release, R-CALF USA says  that while its members must pay into the $1 per head Checkoff program, those funds are used to convince consumers that beef from R-CALF members’ cattle – raised domestically and in compliance with rigorous standards concerning safety, treatment and quality – is no different than beef produced under far less stringent procedures abroad.

“The Checkoff’s implied message that all beef is equal, regardless of where the cattle are born or how they are raised, harms U.S. farmers and ranchers and deceives U.S. citizens,” said R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard. “Despite what we know to be clear evidence about the high quality of beef raised by independent U.S. cattlemen, we are being taxed to promote a message that beef raised without the strict standards used by our members is the same as all other beef, a message we do not support and do not agree with.”

R-CALF’s press release calls the Beef Checkoff a tax, and claims the checkoff “advances the agenda” of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Co-counsel for R-CALF USA J. Dudley Butler, Butler Farm & Ranch Law Group PLLC, said, “This is not only a battle to protect constitutional rights but a battle to ensure that our food supply is not corralled and constrained by multi-national corporations leaving independent farmers and ranchers as mere serfs on their own land.”

Bullard said R-CALF wants the court to issue an injunction to stop the collection of the Beef Checkoff.