A lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order against the state beef checkoff referendum has been denied by a Cole County Circuit Court judge but the court will hear the case on March 21st. The Missouri Rural Crisis Center filed the lawsuit alleging the Missouri Agriculture Department was negligent in its rule making process for the upcoming vote.
Program Director Rhonda Perry said there would be a lot of money paid out by cattle producers if a state beef checkoff is approved on top of the current national beef checkoff.
“When we’re talking about that kind of money in an industry which is looking at drastically low prices right now, I think we believe at a minimum the process for voting on such an increase in taxes really has to be a fair, open and real process,” said Perry.
Perry also said producers have been shut out of the process and the rulemaking for the vote and some have been disenfranchised from voting.
Mike Deering with the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association said the lawsuit was baseless.
“I didn’t understand what they meant by rulemaking because it’s all in state statute,” said Deering. “The Department of Ag followed the law to the letter. They’ve been doing this for decades. They know the law. They keep up on changes to the law. So they’ve been doing a good job. If the law needs changed, let’s work together and change them and not waste taxpayer dollars.”
The state beef checkoff proposal is $1 per head to promote Missouri cattle. Producers already pay $1 per head for the National Beef checkoff for beef research, education and promotion – 50-cents of which comes back to Missouri.
“All we want is to allow producers the opportunity to vote. By filing this lawsuit, the Rural Center Center is basically saying we don’t even want this process to happen and we don’t want producers to have the opportunity to vote and that’s not right. Producers need to decide. If they don’t want it, they need to vote no,” said Deering.
The deadline for cattle producers to register to vote for the $1 per head state beef checkoff is March 4th. The Department of Agriculture will mail the ballots out in early April. Results will be announced April 25.
In order to vote, cattle producers have to register online at www.agriculture.mo.gov or at their county FSA office. Producers can also request a voter registration form by phone at (573) 751-5633, or by emailing [email protected].