Checkoff lawsuit founders
By Lisa M. Keefe on 1/4/2013
The lawsuit filed last August charging that beef checkoff funds are being “misused” is foundering in federal court, as the judge has granted the plantiff’s lawyers’ request to withdraw from the case.
The suit was filed by a free-market advocacy organization called the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) on behalf of Michael Callicrate, owner of Ranch Foods Direct, a small producer and processor in Colorado Springs, and vice president of OCM. The suit seeks a permanent injunction against the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, Cattlemen’s Beef Board and the Beef Promotion Operating Committee, essentially contending that beef checkoff funds are primarily funneled to large ag companies at the expense of small farmers and ranchers.
Callicrate’s pro bono attorneys from the Polsinelli Shugart firm, based in Kansas City, Mo., filed a motion in December asking to withdraw from the case due to a conflict of interest, as other attorneys in the firm had had discussions with the USDA in a separate matter. Callicrate objected to the motion, saying he would be “unable to find replacement counsel of the same quality on affordable financial terms” and that his attorneys’ withdrawal “will severely prejudice me and make it impossible for me to continue this case.”
So far the lawsuit has not been withdrawn. The Humane Society of the United States, while not party to the lawsuit itself, organized the documents and provided legal support in the filing of the litigation. The group will continue to provide “whatever legal support is necessary,” Joe Maxwell, HSUS’s Director of Rural Development and Outreach, told Meatingplace.