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February 25, 2004

USA: Court rules Got Milk campaign breaches free speech rights

A federal appeals court has ruled that the US dairy promotion "Got Milk?" campaign violates the right to free speech of the farmers who are required to pay for the advertisements.

A federal appeals court has ruled that the US dairy promotion “Got Milk?” campaign violates the right to free speech of the farmers who are required to pay for the advertisements.

The National Dairy Promotion Board’s campaign is famous for featuring celebrities wearing milk moustaches and carries the catchy “Got Milk?” slogan. But dairy farmers Joseph and Brenda Cochran questioned why they should have to contribute to the campaign when they believed it did not do much to support sustainable agriculture products, such as milk from cows not injected with hormones, reported the Associated Press.

The decision by the appeal court overturned a lower court ruling that said the Cochrans still had to contribute to the campaign, whatever their opinions of it.

“The court made clear that just because an industry is regulated, and even if it’s heavily regulated, that doesn’t mean the members of that industry lose their First Amendment rights,” the Cochrans’ attorney, Steve Simpson, was quoted by AP as saying.

US agriculture secretary Ann Veneman said the USDA was aware of the ruling and is reviewing it.

“USDA regards such programs, when properly administered, as effective tools for market enhancement. We are consulting with the US Department of Justice to determine the next steps regarding this matter,” Veneman said in a statement.

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