Beef checkoff ruled constitutional

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Judge Richard Cebull’s ruling declares the Beef Promotion and Research Act constitutional, and orders the plaintiffs who brought suit against the checkoff – Montana ranchers Steve and Jeanne Charter – to pay past-due checkoff assessments and late fees.

“Obviously, we are thrilled with Judge Cebull’s decision,” said Cattlemen’s Beef Board Chairman Dee Lacey. “It reaffirms what other cases have concluded repeatedly through the years – that the beef checkoff is constitutional.”

The case originated as a compliance issue in 1998, when the Charters refused to pay the mandated $1-per-head beef checkoff on the sale of their cattle. Faced with the charters’ refusal to pay, a USDA administrative law judge enforced the checkoff and assessed a civil penalty. The USDA’s judicial officer upheld assessments of those fines. The Charters then appealed to the Federal District Court in Billings, Mont., which led to last week’s decision.

Judge Cebull’s decision comes one week after a federal court in Michigan ruled the Pork Production, Research and Consumer Education Act unconstitutional, and ordered a halt to national pork checkoff collections starting Nov. 24.

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