9 July 2003
Beef: it's what's for litigating
It started when three ranchers from South Dakota ranchers and the Livestock Marketing Association other plaintiffs would come on board filed suit against the USDA and the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board, complaining that the $1-per-head assessment for beef promotion, which started in 1985, amounted to coercion in violation of the First Amendment: the money was used for promotional campaigns, most notably the "Beef: It's What's For Dinner" campaign swathed in music from Aaron Copland's Rodeo, and you'd think there wouldn't be anything wrong with that, but the plaintiffs contended that such a vague campaign supported beef imports just as much as it did domestic beef, and they felt they shouldn't have to contribute to a program that could undercut their market.
In June of last year, a district judge found for the plaintiffs and ruled the mandatory assessment was unconstitutional; yesterday, his ruling was upheld by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.
What happens next is unclear. The present beef promotion has been successful enough to halt a long slide in beef consumption in the US. Did the plaintiffs cut off their horns to spite their faces? I'm thinking they did.