Ohio cattle producers are mandated by both state and federal laws to pay a fee to the government for every head of cattle they sell. Known as the Beef Checkoff Program, these mandatory fees are intended to be used for research and promotion of beef. The Ohio Beef Council, an agency of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, collects, administers, and expends these tax dollars.
The U.S. Supreme Court made clear that checkoff programs are activities and speech of the federal government, and therefore checkoff dollars are government funds rather than producer funds. Both Ohio state law and federal law prohibit these mandatory fees from being used to influence policy. But in Ohio, there is not adequate oversight of the collection, administration, or expenditure of these tax dollars. Without state appropriations or state audits, egregious abuses of these tax dollars are occurring.
The Ohio Beef Council contributes to the salaries and overhead costs of a trade and lobbying entity, Ohio Cattlemen’s Association. Sharing expenses for these internal operations furthers the policy activity of the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association. The Ohio Beef Council promotes and collects contributions to the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association’s Political Action Committee (PAC) to influence elections and legislation. Further, the Ohio Beef Council has directly contributed nearly $100,000 to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a national trade and lobbying organization.