California Farmers Applaud Supreme Court Ruling on Beef

May 23, 2005, 01:00 ET from California Table Grape Commission

    FRESNO, Calif., May 23 /PRNewswire/ -- The latest court decision on
 agricultural commodity programs is good news for California's farmers. By a
 6-3 vote, the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the
 Beef Promotion and Research Order.
     "Tens of thousands of California farmers vote on a regular basis to keep
 these promotional programs in place," said Blair Richardson, chairman of the
 California Agricultural Issues Forum, an organization of California commodity
 groups that filed a brief with the court in support of the beef program. "A
 handful of dissenters are using the courts to try to overturn what the
 majority wants. This decision is a win for farmers and for the future of
 farming in California." The California Agricultural Issues Forum represents
 more than a dozen commodities including tree fruit, fresh grapes, avocados,
 tomatoes and cherries.
     The court reviewed the constitutional challenge to the Beef Order, known
 for its "Beef, it's what's for dinner" advertisements and decided that the
 speech from the government-created program was protected from constitutional
 challenge because it is government speech and thus exempt from First Amendment
     "We are gratified by the court's decision," said Randolph Moss, of Wilmer
 Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, attorneys for the California Agricultural
 Issues Forum. "This is a significant victory."
     Similar programs exist in California for over 50 crops, including grapes,
 tree fruit, walnuts, milk, salmon, beef, rice, wheat, asparagus, tomatoes and
 olives. Their promotional messages are set by statute and they are under the
 control of either the California or U.S. agriculture departments.
     Moss noted that the decision did not focus on the specifics of the beef
 message but rather on the fact that " ... Congress and the Secretary have set
 out the overarching messages and some of its elements, and they have left the
 development of the remaining details to an entity whose members are answerable
 to the Secretary ... " "As a result," said Moss, "this is an important
 decision that makes clear that mandatory commodity programs like the one
 upheld today are the work and the speech of the government. It is a decision
 that will apply to a wide range of commodity programs."
     Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission, echoed
 Moss' views. "This is a significant win for the thousands of farmers in
 California who believe they need to work together under the auspices of
 government in order to survive in the global marketplace."

SOURCE California Table Grape Commission