The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals declined (on Oct. 17) to rehear an appeal over its previous decision that the beef checkoff is unconstitutional. A three-judge panel from the court in July had considered an appeal of a ruling from a district court judge but upheld that ruling. Checkoff supporters then asked the full appeals court to review the ruling. But the court said a rehearing is unnecessary. It did not explain its decision. One of the few legal recourses left to USDA and other checkoff supporters is to petition the Supreme Court. Two federal courts have now reviewed this issue and have found the checkoff violates producers' free speech rights under the First Amendment.

The case was initiated by the Livestock Marketing Association (LMA), the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) and a few individual producers. LMA and WORC both issued statements saying their members were pleased with the decision. “Two federal courts have now reviewed this issue, and have found the checkoff violates producers’ free speech rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution,” says LMA president Billy Perrin.

Defendants in the case, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, Nebraska Cattlemen, Inc., and two South Dakota cattlemen, say they are disappointed with the decision. They expect a stay allowing the checkoff to continue while further legal review is pursued.

The Ninth Circuit court of appeals is considering another beef checkoff case in which the federal District court in Montana, using the same facts presented in the Eighth Circuit’s case, ruled the checkoff is constitutional. The resolution of conflicting lower court rulings is one reason the issue is likely to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.