Billings, Mont. – On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied R-CALF USA’s petition requesting an appeal of the first of two lawsuits the group had filed against the operation of the mandatory beef checkoff program. The first lawsuit had previously been dismissed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard issued the following statement in response to the effective end of its first lawsuit.
“While obviously disappointed that our effort to force even more needed reforms upon the beef checkoff program has ended in our first of two lawsuits, we are grateful for the important reforms we did achieve for U.S. cattle producers.
“Our objective in this case was to bring an end to the corrupt manner in which the beef checkoff program was being operated. Specifically, we set out to stop the U.S. Department of Agriculture from unconstitutionally compelling U.S. cattle producers to fund the private speech of private state beef councils.
“We largely succeeded in that effort early in our case. In response to our lawsuit, the USDA took steps to assume necessary control over the speech of the state beef councils identified in our case to limit their ability to express private messages with the money that cattle producers are mandated to pay into the program.
“The district court found that those corrective steps taken by the USDA effectively transformed the preliminary injunction R-CALF USA had initially won into the lasting outcome the group had sought – “an end to USDA’s allegedly unconstitutional government-compelled subsidy of speech.” Having determined that we were the prevailing party in our request for a preliminary injunction, the district court awarded us over $150,000 in legal fees.
“Importantly, the district court found that USDA’s decades-long conduct in operating the beef checkoff program prior to R-CALF USA’s litigation was not substantially justified and stated: “USDA should have known that the program that R-CALF challenged was unconstitutional . . .”
“Another important reform won in this case was that the USDA promulgated formal rules that now allow cattle producers to opt out of funding the activities of their state beef council.
“We will now focus on achieving additional reforms in our second lawsuit that alleges the USDA violated the law when it entered into agreements with numerous state beef councils to assume control over those council’s messaging. More specifically, we allege the USDA ignored its legal obligation to conduct a formal rulemaking process before taking such action.
“We are grateful for the exemplary legal representation provided by our lead counsel, David Muraskin, Litigation Director of the Public Justice Food Project, who helped us preserve the important protections our U.S. Constitution provides every citizen.”