Agricultural Economics Department


Date of this Version



Published in Cornhusker Economics, 01/19/2005. Produced by the Cooperative Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska–Lincoln.


Over the past thirty-five years, Congress has authorized promotion programs, known as checkoff programs, for a variety of agricultural commodities. In 2001 the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the mushroom checkoff, concluding that the generic advertising infringed upon the free speech rights of producers who disagreed with the promotional message. In separate 2002 Federal District Court decisions the beef checkoff was invalidated, the pork checkoff was invalidated, and the legality of the beef checkoff has been upheld. The two cases invalidating checkoff programs relied on U.S. Supreme Court rulings that checkoff programs violated the producers free speech rights. (In 2003, two federal district courts invalidated a mandatory checkoff and a mandatory alligator products checkoff). The one federal district court decision ruling the beef checkoff constitutional characterized the checkoff advertising program as “government speech,” which is exempt from constitutional free speech protections. In a 2003 decision the Eighth Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, relying on the 2001 mushroom decision, ruled that the beef checkoff was unconstitutional. The Appeals Court ruled that forcing cattle producers to pay for generic beef advertising that did not e.g. distinguish between American produced beef and imported beef in effect compelled producers to pay for advertising that they personally disagreed with.