At least 8,000 cattle producers will be surveyed on their attitudes about the beef checkoff as part of the settlement of the lawsuit challenging the checkoff that reached the U.S. Supreme Court. In May 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the checkoff was a government speech program and thus immune from the First Amendment challenge brought by the plaintiffs.

The largest single attitude survey ever done on the checkoff was agreed to by the plaintiffs -- Livestock Marketing Association (LMA), the Western Organization of Resource Councils, Jerry Goebel, Pat Goggins, Robert Thullner, John Willis and Leo Zentner, and the defendants -- the U.S. Department of Justice, representing the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB), and the Nebraska Cattlemen's Association.

A stipulation of dismissal was filed Wednesday with the U.S. District Court in South Dakota, dismissing the claims of most of the plaintiffs in the case. Two plaintiffs, Herman Schumacher and John Smith, declined to sign the settlement agreement, while plaintiff Ernie J. Mertz asked to be dismissed as a plaintiff.

"We've talked extensively with LMA leaders and clearly share the desire for the same end result for the checkoff -- to build demand for beef," says Texas producer and CBB Chairman Jay O'Brien.

LMA President Randy Patterson says LMA and CBB "look forward to working together to promote beef in the future."

Under the settlement's terms:

The survey will be paid for with checkoff funds; CBB will reimburse any costs expended by USDA in conducting the survey.

The survey will include a "representative sample" of at least 8,000 cattle producers.

USDA may hire an outside contractor to carry out the survey development and implementation.

Survey questions will be developed with input from reps of LMA, CBB, Federation of State Beef Councils, and USDA. USDA retains final decision-making authority on the survey contents.

The survey's intent is to assess producer attitudes toward the beef checkoff program. Survey responses shall not constitute a request for a producer referendum, and the survey shall not form the basis of any claim, by the settling plaintiffs or others, that the USDA secretary is authorized or required to conduct a referendum. --- Excerpted from LMA and CBB news releases