Beef Check- Off Program Challenged


The Ranchers’-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF) obtained an injunction against the Montana Beef Council in 2016 setting aside the requirement to pay $1 per head to support the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Montana Beef Council.

Plaintiffs claimed that their First Amendment rights were impacted as Montana Beef Council promotions and advertisements did not distinguish between U.S.-raised and imported beef.

In August 2018, R-CALF filed motions in 14 states including Texas, Kansas, Nebraska and the Carolinas. At issue will be whether promotions funded by Beef Councils in specific states constitute private speech. The Supreme Court has ruled that broad regulatory schemes which may be included in a marketing order did not violate the First Amendment.

The action by R-CALF is strongly opposed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Board which stated “This litigation has already weakened producer-directed programs that support beef demand and has divided neighbors in a manner that undermines the best interest of the entire beef community.”

As a result of the injunction in Montana, the State Beef Council collected less than $200,000 out of an anticipated $850,000 indicating a dearth of support for the check-off program in the state.

The situation in the beef industry may have implications for other check-off programs. It is not anticipated that there will be any groundswell against the American Egg Board which is actively providing promotional services at the consumer and food service levels in addition to maintaining a viable research and development program.