The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday heard arguments over whether the beef “check-off” should continue. Farmers must pay a one-dollar-per-head “check-off” when they sell cattle and the money’s spent on a marketing program made famous by the phrase “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner.” Larry Ginter, a farmer near Marshalltown, has long been a critic of the pork check-off and he went to the Supreme Court yesterday to hear the justices question lawyers for the U.S. government contend the check-off was protected by the First Amendment. “Kinda suspect that they (the justices) wasn’t buying into the argument that it was government speech,” Ginter said. “We’ll just have to find out…but of course, you know, they grilled both sides pretty strong.” One Supreme Court justice questioned whether the check-off was government run since the commercials list the Cattlemen’s Beef Board as sponsor. Ginter is among a group that hopes the Supreme Court will rule commodity check-off programs are unconstitutional because they force all producers to contribute, whether they believe in the marketing goals of the commodity groups or not. Ginter says it’s anybody’s guess whether the Supreme Court will rule against U-S-D-A lawyers. Ginter says the U-S-D-A may have set up the marketing programs, but farmers have been financing the thing all these years. Phone messages to a spokesman for the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association were not returned, but the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association was named in the lawsuit, and Nebraska Cattlemen’s executive v-p Michael Kelsey talked with two people who were in the room when lawyers argued the case before the justices. Kelsey says one of the Nebraskans in the room says cattlemen couldn’t have had a better day in court. Kelsey says his organization is committed to defending the checkoff in any way they can. At the same time, however, they are planning contingencies in case they lose the case. The Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association is a defendant in the case along with the U-S-D-A and the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board. Opponents argue the check-off is unconstitutional because it forces all beef producers to give up part of their profits when they sell cattle, money that’s deposited in the association’s coffers for marketing and other association operations. One justice said “the part that’s good can’t save the whole thing” during questioning of the attorney arguing to save the beef check-off. At stake is not only the beef check-off, but similar commodity programs for a dozen other associations like the Corn Growers and the Pork Producers.
You are here: / / Beef Checkoff case heard by Supreme Court