BILLINGS, Mont. — On Sept. 7, R-CALF USA, through its attorneys, filed its reply in the federal district court in Montana to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) opposition to the group’s motion to expand the scope of their beef checkoff case to include more states.
The district court granted, and the appellate court upheld, a preliminary injunction stopping USDA from violating the U.S. Constitution by compelling Montana cattle producers to pay for the private speech of the private Montana Beef Council without the producers’ consent.
R-CALF USA asked the court to expand the case to include 13 additional states in which producers are similarly required to pay for the private speech of their respective private beef councils without their consent. The USDA filed an opposition to the group’s request, essentially claiming the USDA would be prejudiced if the court expanded the case because the government would then be deprived of arguing their position in each of the courts in the states where the additional beef councils are located.
The reply urges the court to expand the case to include 15 states, by adding Maryland. The reply states the case rests on the sole question of whether the government has violated the Constitution by compelling producers to fund private speech without their consent. Because civil actions may be brought against the federal government in any federal district court, R-CALF USA asserts the Montana federal court has jurisdiction over both the USDA and the Constitution and can, therefore, include the additional states.
In his statement, R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard explains why his group is seeking to expand the lawsuit:
“Our goal is to defend the constitutional right of every cattle producer to choose whether to fund private speech. We want to empower independent cattle producers to hold their respective beef councils accountable for the money that is received and spent. We want to uphold the principals of our free market system by making the decision to fund private speech voluntary. And, we want independent producers to have a meaningful opportunity to express either their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with how the overall beef checkoff program is operated.
“We also want independent producers to be able to withhold funds when they are used to promote corporate control over their industry or corporate promotion. And, we want to empower independent producers to put an end to the pay-to-play scheme in which state beef councils send millions of dollars to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association-controlled Federation of State Beef Councils while the NCBA is lobbying Congress to defeat initiatives important to producers, such as mandatory country-of-origin labeling and reforms to prevent meatpackers from manipulating cattle markets.
“The fact that beef checkoff dollars are used to promote the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, which attempts to control producers by dictating how they must raise their cattle, is clear evidence that independent producers have lost their right to choose the path their industry will follow into the future.
“Our goal to empower independent producers will be made possible if we prevail in our lawsuit and are able to include tens of thousands of more independent cattle producers under the protection of our court-ordered injunction.”
Attorneys for R-CALF USA include lead counsel David Muraskin, a Food Project Attorney at Public Justice, J. Dudley Butler, of the Farm and Ranch Law Group, and Bill Rossbach of Rossbach Law, P.C. in Missoula, Montana.