US Supreme Court to Hear Ranchers' Ad Levy Beef

26 May 2004

The funding of beef industry marketing programs via mandatory contributions is legally tantamount to 'compulsory speech' and therefore a violation of the First Amendment rights of America's corporate cattlemen.

That is the general thrust of a case about to be brought against the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board -- a body set up in 1985 under the provisions of the Beef Promotion and Research Act.

The mandatory levy of $1 (€0.83; £0.59) per head of cattle generates some $80 million a year. Around $13 million of this finds its ways to Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett USA, which creates ads bearing the familiar tagline: "Beef. It's what's for dinner."

"It's unfair. We are having to pay for what someone else wants us to say," protests Mabel Dobbs of Weiser, Idaho, chairwoman of the Western Organization of Resource Councils' livestock committee. "We have no control."

A decision Monday by the US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit agreed to refer the issue to the US Supreme Court. But the CBPRB and the US Department of Agriculture won a stay to allow the levy to continue while the case is appealed to the Supreme Court.

The two bodies contend that the promotion, which is overseen by the government, is important to the industry and that ranchers benefit from the cooperative marketing effort.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff