Okla. ranchers seek Supreme Court intervention in state checkoff referendum
October 23, 2017
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Today (Oct. 23) Oklahoma members of the Organization for Competitive Markets and R-CALF USA joined together to file with the Oklahoma Supreme Court an application for original jurisdiction requesting the court enter a declaratory judgement and prohibit the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry from certifying the Oklahoma beef checkoff program referendum.
The legal application is in response to the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association's attempt to create a new Oklahoma state beef checkoff program through a referendum which began on Oct. 2, 2017. If passed, the new beef checkoff program would mandate all Oklahoma cattle producers pay the Oklahoma Beef Council an additional $1 for every head of cattle they sell. Currently, under a federally mandated beef checkoff program, all cattle producers are required to pay $1. This state referendum would effectively double Oklahoma cattle producers' beef checkoff fees by requiring an additional tax of $3.2 million dollars a year.
The legal documents filed with the Oklahoma Supreme Court outline a series of constitutional and legal irregularities relating to both the petition signature gathering and election processes. The opponents of the Oklahoma Beef Checkoff Program have been raising these irregularities stating they create an unfair and unjust election.
Bryan and Linda Best from L Bar B Farms, LLC., operating an 800 head cow-calf ranch in central Oklahoma said, "If we cattle producers are going to see our taxes doubled, then we need to have a fair election. The Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association based the number of required petition signatures on the number of Oklahoma farms and ranches that have cattle and not on the number of cattle producers in Oklahoma, resulting in thousands too few signatures being submitted to allow for a referendum vote to occur at all. Many of the petition signatures are those of individuals from Texas and other states, names without any signatures, and children too young to sign their names. Signers were not even required to provide proof of cattle sales."
John Johnson, a cattle producer from Duncan, Okla., stated, "This referendum is unconstitutional. Here in Oklahoma, we protect our rights as taxpayers by requiring three-quarters of our legislature to approve revenue increases. That did not happen in this case. And, the petition signature drive lasted 20 months. That's nearly seven times as long as signature-gatherers are given for signature drives. For every other signature drive in Oklahoma, you get 90 days."
The in-person voting on the referendum is to be held on Nov. 1, 2017, with votes cast at any Oklahoma extension office. Cattle producers may request a ballot from Oct. 2 through the 20 with mail-in ballots having to be postmarked by Oct. 27, 2017.
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Even though they have filed this legal action, the Oklahoma members of R-CALF USA and OCM call on all cattle producers to vote "no" on the Oklahoma beef checkoff referendum. ❖