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Beef – It´s What´s In The Courtroom

California cattle producers vote this month on a plan to increase the assessments they pay to promote beef to retailers and restaurants. At the same time, a nationwide beef-promotion program faces a court challenge.

A federal judge ruled the national beef program unconstitutional, saying it requires some producers to pay for advertising they don´t necessarily support. The U.S. Justice Department said this week it would appeal the ruling.

A federal appeals court has stayed a lower court order halting collection of the national beef checkoff. The U.S. Department of Agriculture had filed a motion seeking the stay. The U.S.D.A. says now the checkoff program can continue collections while an appellate panel considers last month´s ruling by U.S. District Judge Charles Kornmann of South Dakota.

Since 1985, livestock producers have had to pay a mandatory dollar-per-head fee on cattle sold in the United States. Half the money goes to the Cattlemen´s Beef Promotion and Research Board, and half to qualified state beef councils.

The groups came up with the popular “Beef — It´s what´s for dinner” slogan. Opponents of the checkoff say the advertisements promote beef in general and not American beef.

The judge has said cattlemen shouldn´t have to pay for commercials they are opposed to.