Thursday, December 9


There's a great show going on at the Supreme Court, as that old "checkoff" program that riled up the pork producers a while back comes up again, now in terms of beef. The question is "whether the government can compel cattle ranchers to pay for an industry marketing program, famous for its 'Beef, It's What's for Dinner' advertisements. The Livestock Marketing Association said meatpackers and processors, who are not required to pay for the checkoff, were benefiting more from the marketing program than ranchers." At heart, this is just an industry-management issue, but it's turned into vaudeville here by the fact that the US government is in bed with the beef industry and wants to play that two ways at once.

For instance: "During oral arguments at the court, several justices expressed reservations whether the beef program was actually government speech protected by the First Amendment, since the commercials don't identify the USDA. Instead, the Cattlemen's Beef Board is listed as the sponsor." Whoops. USDA, Beef Board... who can keep track of which rubber stamp we're supposed to use on which day?

Further, "Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and several other court members appeared skeptical of claims the beef program was government speech, thus giving the cattle farmers no right to challenge it. She said government public health experts would not encourage people to eat lots of red meat." Heh. Well, that depends on which hat they're wearing at any given moment, now doesn't it?

But the most chuckles come from the wacky logic employed by the Bush administration's ( = beef campaign's) lawyer Edwin Kneedler. "The beef checkoff was no different than the government requiring cigarette companies to pay for advertisements that warn consumers about the health risks of smoking, Kneedler said. In both cases, there are some who disagreed with the government's message." Well, perfect analogy - except in this case we'd be putting out ads telling people about the health risks of eating red meat, now wouldn't we? And finally, after much discussion of who should pay for this based on who benefits... "The ultimate beneficiary of the advertising is the consumer," says Kneedler. GREAT! So pass the cost onto the consumer by jacking up the price of beef to a realistic level! I'm all for it, Edwin. Where do I sign?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...