Missouri cattle referendum clears first legal challenge

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — A referendum on raising the fees cattle farmers pay has cleared its first legal challenge, though a final court decision still remains weeks away.

A Cole County court has scheduled a hearing for March 21 on whether to halt the April election. Judge Patricia Joyce on Thursday declined to issue a temporary restraining order that would have stopped election preparations.

The referendum would ask cattle farmers to approve doubling per-animal checkoff fees from $1 to $2. The money would go to the Missouri Beef Industry Council, which spent more than a half million dollars on advertising and outreach in 2015.

Opponents say the election was designed in violation of open records laws and asks farmers to reveal confidential business information.

The Missouri Farm Bureau released a statement applauding Thursday’s ruling.