PHILADELPHIA -- The catchy "Got Milk?" dairy promotion -- famous for plastering milk mustaches on celebrity faces -- violates the free speech rights of farmers forced to pay for the ads, a federal appeals court ruled yesterday.
The unanimous decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit overturns a lower-court ruling that dairy farmers Joseph and Brenda Cochran had to contribute to the National Dairy Promotion Board's campaign even though the couple believed the ads did little to support sustainable products, such as milk from cows not injected with hormones.
"The court made clear that just because an industry is regulated, . . . that doesn't mean the members of that industry lose their First Amendment rights," said the Cochrans' attorney, Steve Simpson of the Institute for Justice, a group based in Washington, D.C.
Lawyers defending the law on behalf of the US Department of Agriculture have said that because dairy prices and distribution are tightly regulated, a joint marketing campaign is the only effective way to compete.
"Got Milk?" is the latest industry promotion whose funding has been found in violation of the First Amendment.
A federal appeals court ruled in July that ranchers could not be forced to pay a fee to support the campaign that spawned the slogan "Beef: It's what's for dinner."