SALEM, Ohio – The Ohio Cattlemen’s Association doesn’t think the national beef checkoff will end, but in case it does, the group has a contingency plan.
If a statewide referendum Jan. 12-14 passes, $1 per head would continue to be collected from producers’ checks even if the U.S. Supreme Court deems the national checkoff unconstitutional.
No increase. Producers will not pay any additional checkoff dollars, stressed Ohio Cattlemen’s Association President Jim Campbell. They already pay $1 per head but half goes to the state checkoff and half to the national fund.
The proposed provision would ensure that even without the national checkoff, producers would continue to pay $1 but it would all go to the state.
The national checkoff has been snarled in the courts for several years over First Amendment disagreements.
Opponents say the checkoff violates freedom of speech because it requires paying the checkoff marketing dollars regardless of whether the producers agree with the message.
If the national checkoff is upheld, the Ohio measure will not take effect, Campbell said.
State’s constitutionality. If the national checkoff is declared unconstitutional, the state’s measure could still hold up to First Amendment scrutiny.
That’s because the state’s checkoff has a refund provision that allows producers to ask for a refund within 30 days of sale, said Elizabeth Harsh, Ohio Cattlemen’s Association executive director.
So although the checkoff is mandatory, producers can stop their money from entering the marketing program.
There is not a similar provision in the national program, Harsh said.
Other states. Tennessee passed a similar referendum earlier this year and Kentucky producers voted Dec. 7, although a result was not in as of press time.
Campbell anticipates all states will follow suit because they realize the importance of maintaining the checkoff.
Pennsylvania, however, is a few steps behind.
Committees in the commonwealth recently began researching the possibility of producers passing a state referendum, said Paul Slayton, Pennsylvania Beef Council executive director.
“If the national program is dead – a big if – we’ll proceed,” Slayton said. Attempts will likely be dropped, however, if the national checkoff is upheld, he said.
“We’re all just waiting to see the Supreme Court’s decision,” he said.
(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 23 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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