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Enid News & Eagle | Oklahoma Ranchers seeking Supreme Court intervention in State Checkoff Referendum

By Ryan Miller Staff Writer

Two organizations are seeking state Supreme Court intervention to prohibit the certification of the beef checkoff referendum.

Last week, members of the Organization for Competitive Markets and R-CALF USA joined to file with the Oklahoma Supreme Court, requesting the court enter 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,” according to a joint press release from OCM and R-CALF USA.

If passed, the referendum would require all state cattle producers to pay the Oklahoma Beef Council another $1 for each head of cattle sold, according the release. In the current federally mandated beef checkoff program, producers already pay $1.

The state referendum then would effectively double state cattle producers’ beef checkoff fees by requiring an extra $3.2 million a year.

Documents filed with the state Supreme Court outline numerous constitutional and legal irregularities for both the petition signature gathering and election processes, according to the release, saying it creates an “unfair and unjust 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,” said Bryan and Linda Best from L Bar B Farms, LLC., operating an 800 head cow-calf ranch in Central Oklahoma.

They said many of the petition signatures are from Texas and other states and include names without any signatures and children too young to sign their own names, and claimed that signers weren’t required to provide cattle sales proof.

Duncan cattle producer John Johnson said the petition signature drive lasted 20 months, nearly seven times as long as signature-gatherers are given for signature drives. He said every other signature drive only gets 90 days.

“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,” Johnson said in the press release.

The in-person voting on the referendum is slated for Wednesday, with voting to be cast at any Oklahoma extension office. Cattle producers were also able to request a ballot in the mail earlier this month, and to send them out postmarked by Oct. 27.

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