Beef Buzz News
Montana Judge Rules in Favor of USDA and State Beef Councils in Litigation Brought by R-CalfThu, 30 Jan 2020 06:29:14 CST
A big win for the beef industry came yesterday as a magistrate judge in Montana has granted summary judgment to USDA and the 15 qualified state beef councils that have been targeted by R-Calf in a beef checkoff lawsuit.
Colin Woodall, CEO of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, NCBA, says he is pleased with today's opinion, "Well, this is a great decision coming out of the magistrate who has been looking at the merits of the case. And what he came out with is that oversight that we currently have in state beef councils is adequate, is enough to protect the integrity of the dollars being paid into the checkoff. This is not the final decision, there's still more to come with a district judge, but this is a critical first step and one that is exciting to see go our way."
You can review the 21 page ruling by Judge John Johnston by clicking on the PDF link at the bottom of this story.
Woodall says this was a crucial step in making sure the State Beef Councils are protected, "The lawsuit that was filed by R-Calf against USDA and NCBA came in as intervener on behalf of USDA trying to show that we support, everything that has been done in order to protect the way that checkoff is spent, to ensure that it is producer-driven, that their audits in place, and there's the appropriate oversight to ensure those dollars are being spent according to the act in the order. And the magistrate today did hold that up. Now he has to refer that the judge, who will ultimately make the final decision, but this was a key step in making sure that we can protect the State Beef Council in their ability to implement the programs they work so hard on. Especially those there at the Oklahoma Beef Council, and the other state beef councils."
Initially, the litigation that R-Calf brought forward was against the Montana Beef Council, and they were successful in getting the injunction against the Montana Beef Council, regarding their half of the dollar/head beef checkoff. Woodall says this was a terrible precedent, "What it basically did was paralyze the Montana Beef Council. So all of the money producers were paying into the checkoff for state programs were basically sitting in limbo. The last thing we wanted was for this to be applied to state beef councils across the country. The issue, of course, is adequate oversight. Is there enough oversight to make sure those dollars are being spent according to the direction of the producer leaders who drive the checkoff decisions? And the magistrate decision today supported that. I think it showed the integrity of the program, the integrity of the oversight from USDA, and ensures that we can move forward with these programs, and to tell all producers regardless of their policy affiliation, that those checkoff dollars are being spent in the way that they were meant to, by Congress, and again, under the auspices and the oversight of the United States Department of Agriculture.
While Montana was intitially targeted, R-Calf was successful to get 14 other state Beef Councils named in the challenge- including the Kansas Beef Council, Texas Beef Council and the Nebraska Beef Council. The Oklahoma Beef Council was not one of the states targeted by R-Calf, apparently because OBC has had a MOU in place for several years.
Woodall says in the next 14 days, R-Calf will have the opportunity to challenge. If they do so, the USDA will have a chance to respond to those claims, "NCBA, as an intervener, will also have the opportunity to respond to those claims. Then all of that will be considered by the district judge before he makes his final decision, which could happen in two to three months. Then if it remains a favorable decision, hopefully, this nightmare is over for us. The Beef Councils can get back to worrying about what they need to worry about, and that is promoting our products, rather than spending so much time, as they have over the past several years, worrying about this litigation and the future of the checkoff."
Click on the LISTEN BAR below to hear the complete interview with Colin Woodall as he talks with Ron Hays.
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