A recent court ruling could dramatically alter the way commodity groups operate.A federal judge has ruled the beef check-off is an unconstitutional violation of farmers’ free speech rights. Farmers pay a check-off on all sorts of commodities — from corn to beans to livestock. The “check-off” is a small percentage of the price they’re paid for selling their stock and crops. The money is funneled to commodity groups and used to finance ad campaigns that build customer demand for the products and to finance research. Monica Kahout of the Campaign for Family Farms has been pushing to get rid of the pork check-off, and her group will make the same First Amendment argument in a Michigan court, and hopes it’ll get the same kind of a ruling. She says the ruling gives them momentum and proves the point that mandatory check-offs are not legitimate. Kahout believes abolishing the check-offs will change the way commodity groups operate. She says a more voluntary type of check-off would make the groups more accountable to farmers.Kahout farms in southwest Minnesota, near Redwood Falls. A spokesman for the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association did not respond to a request for an interview.
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