The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed a U.S. District Court of the District of Montana decision holding that the Montana Beef Council’s and other qualified state beef councils’ (QSBCs) advertisements are exempt from First Amendment scrutiny. The decision is in Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America v. Vilsack, No. 20-35453 (9th Cir. July 27, 2021).
Many of you have heard the slogan “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner” in advertising to promote the use of beef in a healthy diet. But if you were a beef producer would you consider this type of generic beef advertising to be a violation of your First Amendment rights? Would you want this generic advertising to promote American beef? Or beef produced in your home state? A federal lawsuit touching on these issues has been progressing in a federal district court in Montana this year, and a federal magistrate judge has recently recommended to the federal court to allow a challenge to the beef advertising be allowed to continue. Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF) and United Stockgrowers of America brought the action against Secretary Vilsack and USDA. The beef check-off program created by the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985 (Act) and the check-off pays for the generic advertising to promote beef. The Act allows qualified state beef councils to collect the beef check-off dollars. These qualifying state beef councils must agree to follow similar promotional activities as the federal Cattlemen’s Beef Production and Research Board (Board). In Montana, the group is the Montana Beef Council.