Tuesday, December 7


Get the government out of the advertising business, especially when small farmers and meat producers don't need it, don't want it, but are forced to fund it.(Unless, that is, Brent Bozell complains about lost ad revenues for his company as a result!)

he Supreme Court will hear arguments tomorrow from small beef producers who say they should not be forced to pay for an expensive marketing program. Under the Beef Promotion Research Act of 1985, the Agriculture Department collects a fee of $1 per head of cattle sold by beef ranchers. Like similar programs for pork, cheese, fruit or you name it, the beef checkoff arrangement turns the fees - $80 million a year in the case of the beef folk - over to industry groups to spend on marketing, commercials and research. Those groups, for their part, would like to believe that when beef shows up on your plate for dinner, it's because they told you to put it there.
The small farmers rightly claim that the checkoff program is a violation of their right to free speech because it forces them to pay for ads they may not agree with, or may not want. To combat that, the government has come up with the ludicrous idea that the ads are actually "government speech" - whatever that is. The government also says that if the payments aren't mandatory, farmers and distributors who don't advertise will get a free ride at the expense of those who do. Of course, there's an easy answer to that argument: kill the programs.

Farmers and others who have to pay into checkoffs have been trying to get out of these programs for years, and United States courts have thus far been erratic in their decisions. Ditto for the Supreme Court; it kept the program for tree fruit back in 1997, but killed the one for mushrooms in 2001.


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