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(June 25, 2001) -- In a case that could have a dramatic impact on a number of mandatory advertising programs, including the "Got Milk?" campaign by dairy producers, the U.S. Supreme Court today ruled 6-3 that individual mushroom growers can't be forced to fund industry advertising.

"Just as the First Amendment may prevent the government from prohibiting speech, the amendment may prevent the government from compelling individuals to express certain views," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy, delivering the court majority's opinion.

Calling the mushroom advertising "compelled speech," the court, which had previously approved similar advertising promotions, said the marketing program by the Mushroom Council is different because advertising is almost all that the council does.

The other ad programs are part of heavily regulated industries such as California fruit production.

United Foods of Tennessee had challenged the assessments imposed on mushroom growers by the government to fund the industry ad campaign. The company contended that it drew little benefit from advertising by the Mushroom Council, and that the council's ad program amounts to compulsory speech, which violates its First Amendment rights.

The $1 million campaign for the mushroom growers from Lewis & Neale, New York, is small compared with the almost $100 million "Got Milk?" campaign, but the results could affect numerous other farm advertising programs. -- Ira Teinowitz

Copyright June 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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