Judge Rules That Rice Board's Use of Funds is Lawful

MARCH 8, 2006 - Posted at 7:34 a.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - A Pulaski County judge ruled yesterday in favor of the Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board in a case involving the state commodity program.

Circuit Judge Willard Proctor, Jr. ruled that money collected from Arkansas rice producers between August 2004 and March 2005 was used by the board for research, not marketing.

Joe Bryant, a rice farmer from Lonoke County, had sued the Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board over the use of the money collected from him.

The judge's ruling could be appealed and similar lawsuits are pending against the Arkansas Wheat Promotion Board and the Arkansas Beef Council and the Arkansas Pork Producers Association.

At issue in the lawsuits is whether farmers must pay mandatory fees for marketing they oppose.

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government was within its rights to force cattle ranchers to pay for a multi-million dollar  "Beef: It's What's for Dinner" advertising program, even when some cattle producers disagreed with the campaign.

A lawyer for the rice board said the marketing question didn't play a role in the rice case because the money was being used for research.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)