The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it would hear an appeal of an 8th Circuit Appellate Court ruling that found the beef checkoff in violation of the First Amendment.

This won’t be the first time the court has weighed in on the topic of checkoff programs.

In 1997, by a vote of 5-4 the court ruled the checkoff program for tree fruit — plums, nectarines and peaches — was constitutional. Then, in 2001, it ruled the mushroom industry checkoff was not.

"This decision was expected," says Bob Rolston, an Englewood, Colo., cattleman and chairman of the Federation of State Beef Councils Division of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. "Throughout the lengthy litigation process, we anticipated that the decision would ultimately be made by the U.S. Supreme Court. What’s more, we believe in the merits of the beef checkoff and are confident that it will eventually prevail."

Thirty state attorneys general, along with Puerto Rico, asked the Supreme Court to hear the beef checkoff case and 48 industry organizations signed a brief supporting the Supreme Court’s review.

The final Supreme Court ruling is expected during the first half of 2005.

In addition to the beef checkoff, the court is holding a petition for a writ of certioriari on the pork checkoff case, which means it will have to wait until after the beef case is heard. And the next step in the appeals process for the dairy checkoff will be the Supreme Court.

Checkoff programs for beef, pork and dairy will continue with business as usual throughout the appeals process.

NCBA, Pork, Associated Press