Beef checkoff dollars should not be used automatically to support private speech funded by state beef councils, the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America argued in a brief filed in federal court in Montana Monday.

Instead, if they want to use checkoff dollars, the councils should first get “affirmative consent” from producers, R-CALF said.

The group won a preliminary injunction from the court in 2017 requiring affirmative consent be granted to the Montana Beef Council before retaining half a producer's checkoff assessment. Since then, R-CALF expanded its lawsuit to challenge the use of checkoff funds by 14 other state councils: Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

The councils collect the $1 per head and can use half of it for their own promotions or send the money to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board,, which oversees national beef checkoff funds. State councils, whose members are not appointed by the government, are not accountable to the public, R-CALF said.

USDA recently issued a rule to require soybean growers and beef producers who do not want state councils to use their money to make such “redirection” requests monthly. USDA and intervenors supporting the department have until June 28 to file their briefs opposing R-CALF.

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