Brief of Amici Curiae Food & Water Watch; Dakota Rural Action; Family Farm Action Alliance; Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance; Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy; Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement; Rural Advancement Foundation International USA; and Western Organization of Resource Councils in Support of Plaintiff-Appellant, Supporting Reverse and Remand of Decision Below.
Federal commodity promotion programs like the Beef Checkoff, which compel farmers and ranchers to pay for advertising for their products, have been the subject of significant opposition. Independent farmers increasingly struggling with the harmful economic impacts of corporate consolidation have repeatedly questioned whether the mandatory assessments paid into checkoff programs ultimately help or harm their bottom line, and whether they unconstitutionally compel producers to fund speech they disagree with. The Beef Checkoff is no exception. As beef has become the most consolidated livestock sector in the U.S, independent beef producers have faced growing challenges making a living and gaining fair access to markets.
At the same time, millions of dollars in Beef Checkoff funds are spent on generic advertising by unaccountable private parties. These private entities advocate for policies that foster the corporate consolidation harming independent producers. They use producers’ Checkoff dollars to serve the same end, generating advertising that tells consumers “beef is beef,” preventing independent, domestic, and specialty producers from being able to distinguish their products from industrially produced, imported, and other lower-value beef products. This advertising should be overseen and approved by the federal government, enabling producers to hold the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) accountable for harmful Checkoff impacts through democratic action, but in reality these ads evade even minimal USDA scrutiny when funding is first passed through
Qualified State Beef Councils. Through this “shell game,” USDA continues to unconstitutionally compel farmers and ranchers to fund private speech antithetical to their interests, causing significant harm to their industry and their livelihood. Amici urge the Court to reverse and remand.
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