POLITICO’s Morning Agriculture: R-CALF to sue USDA again over beef checkoff

POLITICO’s Morning Agriculture News

By Jenny Hopkinson | 05/02/2016 10:00 AM EDT

With help from Jason Huffman, Victoria Guida, Ian Kullgren and Helena Bottemiller Evich

R-CALF TO SUE USDA AGAIN OVER BEEF CHECKOFF: A group of cattle ranchers are going to court again to challenge the Agriculture Department’s oversight of the beef checkoff program, this time arguing that it should be promoting only U.S. beef, our Ian Kullgren reports. In a complaint to be filed in a Montana federal court today, R-CALF USA will argue that its members in the state are having their First Amendment rights denied because they are being forced to pay into the Montana chapter of the checkoff program without having a say in the marketing strategy. R-CALF maintains its headquarters in Billings, Mont.

"Members of R-CALF USA believe it is important to communicate to consumers that all beef is not equal, that it matters very much where and how beef is produced, and that consumers should prefer and select beef born, raised and harvested in the United States," says the complaint, an advance copy of which was obtained POLITICO Pro. "R-CALF USA’s members are being required to subsidize private speech with which they disagree, a plain violation of the First Amendment."

The lawsuit filed by R-CALF is just the latest in a long-running feud with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the group charged with managing the beef checkoff program; R-CALF contends that the NCBA is dominated by multinational corporate interests that want control of the cattle supply. Read Kullgren’s story here.