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Pork checkoff ruled unconstitutional

(Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2002 -- CropChoice news) -- A U.S. District Court Judge in Michigan yesterday ruled that the pork checkoff is unconstitutional because it violates producers' rights of free speech by obligating them to contribute their money to promotions with which they disagree.

"Even aside from the important political and philosophical objections to such speech, the commercial interests of objecting producers to such speech is ample," wrote Judge Richard Alan Enslen. "In days of low return on agricultural, the decision of an individual farmer to devote funds to uses other than generic advertising are very important. Indeed, the frustration of some farmers are likely to only mount when those funds are used to pay for competitors’ advertising, thereby depriving the farmer of the ability to pay for either niche advertising or non-advertising essentials (such as feed for livestock). This is true regardless of whether objecting farmers are correct in their economic analysis that the assessments and speech do not sufficiently further their own particular interests. In short, whether this speech is considered on either philosophical, political or commercial grounds, it involves a kind of outrage which Jefferson loathed. The government has been made tyrannical by forcing men and women to pay for messages they detest. Such a system is at the bottom unconstitutional and rotten...The Court concludes that the mandated system of Pork Act assessments is unconstitutional since it violates the Cross-Plaintiffs’ rights of free speech and association."

The judge ordered that the Pork Act, including its Pork Check-off program, cease in 30 days. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman said that her Department was consulting with the Department of Justice about whether they'll challenge the decision.

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