July 2005 -- The U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-3 to uphold the constitutionality of the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985. This announcement, made on May 23, overturns the lower-court decisions by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit and the U.S. District Court for South Dakota, which ruled the measure unconstitutional.
The beef campaign is a form of ?government speech? immune to First Amendment challenges, the court says.
?The message set out in the beef promotion is, from beginning to end, the message established by the federal government,? concurring justices state.
As a result of this decision, the Beef Checkoff Program will continue without interruption. The more than $80 million mandatory program is funded by an assessment of $1 per head collected each time cattle are sold.
According to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, this ruling ?is a win for the many producers who recognize the power of pooled resources. As this administration has always contended, USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) regards such programs, when properly administered, as effective tools for market enhancement.?
USDA is reviewing this decision to determine its implications for other First Amendment challenges to checkoff programs. In a similar legal case, a lower court has declared the pork checkoff unconstitutional.
National Pork Board President Dave Culbertson calls the court decision a victory for many commodity programs, including the pork checkoff. The Illinois producer expects the pork-checkoff case to be remanded to District Court in Cincinnati and rescinded.
The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) signed-on with the more than 110 other agricultural groups in filing a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the constitutionality of the beef checkoff program.
?Legal challenges to checkoff programs existed back in 1999 when the U.S. sheep industry began discussions of an American lamb program,? states Peter Orwick, ASI executive director. ?Given the years involved in settling litigation, the industry went forward with a lamb program with the knowledge that the courts would resolve legal disputes that could impact all programs. Two key tests have been met with the positive outcome of the beef case and with the recent approval of a lamb referendum.?
In February of this year, 80 percent of those voting favored the continuation of the Lamb Promotion, Research and Information Order, more commonly known as the Lamb Checkoff.