US - A group of cattle ranchers has taken legal action against the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) alleging that the agency’s Beef Checkoff tax, is being unconstitutionally used to promote international beef, to the detriment of US beef products and producers.
The Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) say the tax collected more than $80 million in FY 2015.
R-CALF USA, whose members are independent cattle producers across the United States, says that while its members must pay a $1 per-head tax to the Checkoff programme, funds from that tax are used to convince consumers that beef from R-CALF USA members’ cattle – raised domestically and in compliance with rigorous standards concerning safety, treatment and quality – is no different than beef produced under far less stringent procedures abroad.
“The Checkoff’s implied message that all beef is equal, regardless of where the cattle are born or how they are raised, harms US farmers and ranchers and deceives US citizens,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.
“Despite what we know to be clear evidence about the high quality of beef raised by independent US cattlemen, we are being taxed to promote a message that beef raised without the strict standards used by our members is the same as all other beef, a message we do not support and do not agree with.”
Under the Checkoff, all Montana cattle producers, including R-CALF USA’s members, are required to subsidise the programs of the private Montana Beef Council, which is comprised of individuals closely aligned with some of the largest multinational, industrial cattle producers.
In one promotion paid for by the Council, tax money was used to fund an advertising campaign for fast food chain Wendy’s, in order to promote a product which could contain beef from 41 different countries.
In addition, Checkoff funds have been used to advance the agenda of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association which promotes the idea that “beef is beef, whether the cattle were born in Montana, Manitoba, or Mazatlán.”
“This is not only a battle to protect constitutional rights but a battle to ensure that our food supply is not corralled and constrained by multi-national corporations leaving independent farmers and ranchers as mere serfs on their own land,” said Co-counsel for R-CALF USA J. Dudley Butler of Butler Farm & Ranch Law Group PLLC.
“Tax money being raised here in the US is being used to advertise beef being raised under conditions that are not transparent and that our members have no control over,” Mr Bullard added.
“We’re a non-profit association of proud, independent cattle producers from 43 different states who are committed to the safety and quality of our products. Our ranchers shouldn’t have to pay for advertising blitzes benefiting multinational operators that seek to turn our food supply over to huge corporations.”
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