Thursday, May 26, 2005

Supreme Court Checks Off Beef Check Off

The Supreme Court has decided (5 to 4) that the "check off" fee assessed against the importation or sale of beef cattle is not unconstitutionally compelled private speech. Darn! If it were, the collected fees might be subject to recovery and a great many customs lawyers would be celebrating with steak dinners and planning for retirement. That is because the fee (collected by Customs on imports) would likely have been recoverable (with interest) following a protest of the liquidation of the entry.

Alas, it seems that it shall not be. Justice Scalia's opinion finds that the fee is used to fund government speech in support of the beef industry. As a result, it is unlike cases involving fees compelling speech on behalf of private interests. Consequently, the fees do not violate the First Amendment.

Since the mushroom fee was unconstitutional but the beef fee is not, beef stroganoff manufacturers are suffering mixed results. Similar fees on watermelon, cotton, avocados and other commodities remain subject to individual analysis (which is my clever way of saying "I don't know.").

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