On Friday, R-CALF USA filed a new lawsuit over amendments the U.S. Department of Agriculture made to the operation of the federal Beef Checkoff program in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The new lawsuit expands on R-CALF’s earlier litigation that challenged the constitutionality of the operation of 15 state beef councils.
In March, a U.S. District Court judge in Montana denied R-CALF’s request for an injunction to stop state beef councils from collecting checkoff dollars. R-CALF has appealed that ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In his ruling in favor of USDA and the Montana Beef Council, Judge Brian Morris cited that USDA has entered into Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) with state beef councils that give USDA significant discretion to approve or reject any all promotional activities. Under the MOU’s state beef councils agree to submit to USDA for pre-approval any and all promotion, advertising, information and research plans and projects.
The new lawsuit by R-Calf challenges the MOUs, asserting that the government unlawfully amended the legal and regulatory framework within which the state beef councils operate without first initiating a public rulemaking process. R-Calf contends that in entering into the MOUs, USDA violated legal procedure mandated by the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to allow for public comment.
R-CALF alleges that because some state beef councils are not elected or appointed by the government, they are not producing government speech. Therefore, R-CALF says, the state beef councils are private organizations and cattlemen should not be required to fund private speech.