WASHINGTON (May 26)—By a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court has ruled that the beef industry has the right to charge ranchers $1 per head of cattle to fund the "Beef: It's What's for Dinner" public information "checkoff" program.
Because the federal government runs the program, the majority ruled, it is entitled to collect the money from those who benefit from the checkoff, even if they object to paying. This marks a major reversal for the federal courts, which previously ruled that checkoff programs for beef, milk, pork and other products were unconstitutional abridgment of free speech.
"This decision appears to lay to rest the legal concerns that had been raised concerning such funds," Roy Littlefield, executive vice president of the Tire Industry Association, said in a news release.
TIA has been at the forefront of efforts to create a checkoff program for the tire industry to fund education, training and safety initiatives; it calls its plan the Tire Initiative for Research, Education and Safety, or TIRES.
Up to now, the Rubber Manufacturers Association has been leery of the TIRES program because of the legal challenges, and the Texas Tire Dealers Association passed a November 2003 resolution against a checkoff program, fearing it would be a back-door tax on the industry. It remains to be seen whether the Supreme Court decision will give new impetus to the TIRES program, an RMA spokesman said.