Farmers File Motion for Summary Judgment in Dairy Checkoff Case
On June 6, 2002,
dairy farmers Joseph and Brenda Cochran, in conjunction with the
Center for Individual Freedom, filed a motion requesting summary
judgment in the case challenging the constitutionality of the mandatory
dairy promotion program.
The dairy checkoff,
responsible for messages such as "Got Milk?" and "Ahh, the power
of cheese," is the latest in a growing list of lawsuits against
commodity promotion programs in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court
ruling in United States v. United Foods that it violates
the First Amendment for the government to compel mushroom producers
to pay for "generic" collective advertising.
mushroom checkoff is materially indistinguishable from the dairy
checkoff, the Cochran family seeks summary judgment declaring the
mandatory dairy promotion program unconstitutional.
Foods, the Court framed the issue as follows: The question
is whether the government may underwrite and sponsor speech with
a certain viewpoint using special subsidies exacted from a designated
class of persons, some of whom object to the idea being advanced.
That mirrors the issue in this case . . . Analysis of the two programs
yields the same resolution -- the programs are unconstitutional,"
wrote attorneys for the Cochrans in the 24-page brief.
Enacted by Congress
in 1983, the dairy checkoff is funded by dairy producers through
a mandatory 15-cent per hundredweight (roughly 2-cents per gallon)
assessment on all milk domestically produced and marketed commercially.
Last year, the program collected over $250 million in assessments.
family, which is not a member of any association or cooperative
marketing agreement, objects to being forced to pay for advertising
which promotes all milk as equal. The Cochrans farming methods
differ markedly from those generally found at other commercial dairies.
They feel their grazing system and use of sustainable agriculture
in the form of less intensive herd management make for a superior
milk, promotes a better use of the Earths resources, promotes
the environment, and, in sum, provides a healthier animal, product
the 15-cent per hundredweight assessment represents a significant
portion of the gross profit margin of the Cochrans dairy operation.
In some years the total assessment prevents the Cochrans from implementing
essential farm management practices. Failure to implement these
practices impairs the Cochrans ability to remain competitive
in the ever-changing dairy industry.
The motion for
summary judgment is the latest action in the suit filed by the Cochrans
on April 2, 2002. The case is before Judge James F. McClure, Jr.
in the U.S.
District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania.
the motion for summary judgment, click
on June 6, 2002]