The case at a glance

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What's the beef? The Supreme Court will decide if beef ranchers can be forced to pay for industry ads when they don't want to support the ad program. Previous rulings on other commodity programs haven't drawn clear lines as to whether they violate producers' First Amendment rights.

Department of Agriculture's position: "The First Amendment is inapplicable to government speech. ... Government speech necessarily is paid for by the citizens, some of whom may disagree with its message."

What's at stake: As much as a quarter billion in advertising and marketing for agricultural marketing programs. But a decision could also set new standards for commercial speech, and when the government can require industries to pay for ads, a guide that would affect congressional pushes for limits on advertising of alcohol, and ads for obesity-inducing food to kids.

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