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Dairy Farmers Mount Legal Challenge

Dairy Farmers and Center for Individual Freedom Mount Legal Challenge to Dairy Checkoff





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Contact: Eric Schippers

Ph: 703-535-5836

February 8, 2002

Dairy Farmers and Center for Individual Freedom Mount Legal Challenge to Dairy Checkoff

WESTFIELD, Pa. — A family of dairy farmers, working in conjunction with the Center for Individual Freedom (CIF), today announced that it has engaged a prominent agricultural attorney to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the USDA’s mandatory dairy promotion program.

Joe and Brenda Cochran, along with their eldest son Cyrus and most of their other 13 children, produce nearly 7,000 pounds of milk each day on their 213-acre farm in north-central Pennsylvania. The Cochrans are "independent" dairy farmers who do not belong to a cooperative marketing group.

"We have long felt the mandatory advertising tax on our milk is unconstitutional," said Brenda Cochran. "As small, independent dairy farmers, we’re strongly against having to pay for someone else’s messages. We’d rather speak for ourselves."

The dairy checkoff, which last year collected over $250 million, 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. Enacted by Congress in 1983, the dairy checkoff is the latest in a growing list of challenges to commodity promotion programs in the wake of the June 25, 2001, ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that it violates the First Amendment for the government to compel mushroom producers to pay for industry advertising (United States v. United Foods).

"Our argument is simple," said Benjamin F. Yale, attorney for the Cochrans. "The First Amendment gives the Cochrans the right to speak or to remain silent. This is a choice enjoyed by virtually every other vocation in the country. The Supreme Court has held that mushroom growers have that choice, and we’re going to ask that dairy producers be given the choice as well." Mr. Yale has over twenty five years experience in the dairy industry, representing dairy interests in state and federal rule making, agency hearings, and in court.

Eric Schippers, Executive Director of CIF said, "We see this latest legal challenge as a further circling of the wagons against unconstitutional commodity promotion programs. For the Center for Individual Freedom, it’s a matter of principle; we will continue to fight to protect the constitutional rights of our nation’s independent ranchers, farmers and dairy producers."

CIF filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief in the United Foods mushroom case, as well as in a case in the California Supreme Court involving mandatory advertising for plum growers (Gerawan Farming, Inc. v. Veneman). Currently, CIF is assisting in lawsuits filed by independent beef ranchers against the beef checkoff, and its general counsel, Renee L. Giachino, will be assisting in the Cochran’s dairy case. Copies of the legal briefs may be read online at

CIF has established a national checkoff legal fund to support legal and communications efforts to overturn checkoff programs. Those wishing to contribute to the fund may call Eric Schippers at 703-535-5836.

Founded in 1998, the Center for Individual Freedom is a non-partisan, non-profit organization with the mission to protect and defend individual freedoms and rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

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