The Utah Beef Council faces a lawsuit by a rancher arguing that the collection of checkoff fees is unconstitutional because it supports political speech and lacks transparency.
Evergreen Ranch, an entity with three head of cattle according to the Deseret News, says the mandatory 50 cents per head it pays to the Utah Beef council has been used by the council, a nonprofit private entity, for political advocacy on topics from greenhouse gas emissions to public land disputes, in violation of the First Amendment.
The law suit has forced Utah officials to seek a solution, and one could come from a bill sponsored by Rep. Scott Sandall that would create the Utah Beef Council as an independent state agency that can take money and engage in promotional activities.
Last week Utah officials were told the plaintiff would likely win the lawsuit, based on federal court guidance. According to the Deseret News, a legislative analysis also shows the current beef promotion statute is unconstitutional and that both State Auditor John Dougall and State Treasurer David Damschen agree.
A spokesperson with the Utah Attorney General’s Office said the constitutional nature of the lawsuit would open the state up to more litigation, which could cost as much as $1 million.