HB 432: A Government Council to Promote Beef
This bill passed the House 69-1 and passed the Senate 29-3.
For years, the Utah Beef Council has been collecting 50 cents for each cattle sold to fund the promotion of Utah-grown beef. A few ranchers across the state have objected to this fee in a lawsuit, arguing the nonprofit is acting unconstitutionally by collecting and using these fees for the purpose of funding political speech. A legislative analysis concurs with this statement, which apparently prompted Representative Scott Sandall to sponsor House Bill 432.
Unfortunately, HB 432 is a heavy-handed response to the problem. The bill would turn the Utah Beef Council into a governmental agency that would then have the power to collect and use these fees, circumventing the complaint raised in the lawsuit. It removes voting power from the ranchers when a fee is levied, leaving a great amount of power and influence in the hands of a few.
Further, the language of the bill is extremely broad, empowering this group of industry insiders to incur debt and solicit government appropriations or donations in order to “promote the beef industry,” “take actions consistent with this chapter to promote, protect, and stabilize the state’s beef industry,” and “do other things necessary for the efficient and effective management and operation of the council’s business.
Despite being created by the government, the state “is not liable for the acts or omissions of the council, council officers, agents, or employees.” The council may not take part in the state’s Risk Management Fund. Further, the attorney general is declared to have no duty to defend the council in any lawsuit.
HB 432 is modeled after the Utah Dairy Commission, a similar council that imposes an “assessment” of 10 cents on dairy producers for every 100 pounds of milk they sell.
Utah’s ranchers have a strong incentive to promote the sale of their beef, including in collaboration with other producers—and they don’t need a government-created council to do it. These promotional activities are not the proper role of government.