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In farmers' continuing grass-roots efforts against government-mandated advertising, Joseph Gallo Farms has asked a federal court to eliminate fees paid to the California Milk Advisory Board.

Advertising for California cheese is "a complete waste of money," contends the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento and in an administrative action before the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

McCann-Erickson Worldwide, San Francisco, handles the $18.5 million broadcast and print humorous campaign that delves into the reasons people move to California and is tagged "It's the cheese."


Mike Gallo, son of Joseph (himself brother of vintners Ernest and Julio) and part owner of the farm, said farmers believe cheese consumption has been expanded through private-sector product development, such as Pizza Hut's use of cheese in pizza crusts.

Generic advertising isn't responsible, he said, adding, "I expect this to be a long, hard fought battle."

In other legal action, the U.S. Supreme Court is deciding whether to hear a suit filed by nectarine and peach growers and packers against the California Tree Fruit Agreement, which spends about $1.5 million a year on ads. Other challenges have been mounted by avocado, pecan and almond growers nationwide.

"Advertising that brings results is what we'd like," said John Kinsman, president of National Family Farm Defenders and a Wisconsin dairy farmer who has campaigned against the National Dairy Board. He said milk consumption continues to drop while marketing boards and their ad agencies "continue to lie and misquote the results."

The suit is the latest in a battle over the more than $300 million farmers were required to dole out during the past four years. Spending ranges from $35,000 from the California Strawberry Commission to an estimated $110 million from the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board, whose print "milk mustache" campaign from Bozell, New York, is themed "Milk. What a Surprise!"


Jay Schulberg, Bozell's vice chairman-chief creative officer, said the campaign has changed consumer attitudes toward milk and is working to reverse a 30-year decline in milk consumption. Bozell is talking with Campbell Soup Co. and Quaker Oats Co. about co-promotion milk efforts.

This year, Bozell will expand the milk effort by targeting men and teens. About 30 magazines will be added to the 50 on last year's media schedule.

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