Johanns v. Livestock Marketing Association (formerly Veneman v. Livestock Marketing Association)

First Amendment
Docket Number: 
Case Description: 

This case in the U.S. Supreme Court concerned whether the beef "checkoff" program, under which all beef producers are required by federal law to contribute funds to support "generic" beef advertising, violates the First Amendment. Dissident beef producers who are outside the mainstream of the beef industry opposed the law because it compels them to support speech that they do not agree with. The federal government defended the law on the theory that the beef advertising is "government speech" and is not subject to a First Amendment challenge. Public Citizen filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the opponents of the law. The brief argued that the beef advertising that is funded by the program (specifically, the "Beef, It's What's for Dinner" campaign) is not genuinely speech of the federal government, but is simply an industry effort to promote its product to consumers, and that the First Amendment does not permit the government to compel dissidents within an industry to support that kind of advertising.

Question presented:

Whether the Beef Promotion and Research Act, 7 U.S.C. 2901 et seq., and the Beef Promotion and Research Order, 7 C.F.R. Pt. 1260, violate the First Amendment insofar as they require cattle producers and importers to fund generic advertising promoting the desirability of eating beef.

On May 23, 2005, the Supreme Court decided the case adversely to our position and to that of the party we supported. See 544 U.S. 550 (2005). The Court adopted a very broad conception of government speech and concluded that the beef industry’s marketing messages were the speech of the federal government and were therefore immune from First Amendment challenge by industry members who did not wish to pay to support those messages.