The U.S. Supreme Court today (Monday) ruled the government is within its rights to make cattle producers pay a dollar a head into a checkoff fund, to be used to promote the consumption of beef. Bill Scheitler is president of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, and calls it a great day for the cattle industry, not only in Iowa but all across the nation. “The beef checkoff has been a tremendous benefit to our industry in increasing the demand for beef,” Scheitler says, “and whenever we can increase the demand for beef, it translates into better cattle prices for everyone.” Some farmers had challenged the checkoff, which was created by a 1985 federal law, saying they didn’t want to pay a mandatory fee. There are currently dozens of federal and state marketing campaigns for products including pork, milk, and cotton — and many are also facing court challenges. Scheitler says the checkoff’s been important on many fronts — in addition to the familiar “Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner” campaign, he says the money’s helped point out the nutritional value of beef and get out the message of food safety. Scheitler says since 1998 there have been over 2000 new beef products introduced to the food market. He says promoters have increased their marketing through restaurants, food stores, and in the media promoting the beef industry. South Dakota and Montana ranchers who sued over the beef checkoff won an appeals court ruling that found the program violated the first amendment. The federal government appealed it, with backing from Nebraska Cattlemen, and the nation’s high court today said the beef promotion campaign, popularly known from ads saying “Beef — It’s What’s For Dinner,” constitutes a form of government speech immune from the First Amendment challenge used in the court case. Scheitler says the checkoff will add to stability in the beef industry, and help keep growing it at a profitable level. The fee generates more than 80-Million dollars a year, and the money’s sent to an industry group appointed by the USDA to support advertising and research programs.
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