MEMPHIS – The National Cotton Council sees Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the beef marketing campaign as a favorable development for the Cotton Research and Promotion Program.
The Supreme Court rejected a First Amendment challenge to the constitutionality of the Beef Promotion and Research Act. In its decision in Johanns v. Livestock Marketing Ass’n., No. 03-1164, and Nebraska Cattlemen, Inc. v. Livestock Marketing Ass’n, No. 03-1165, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals and held that the beef program is “exempt” from First Amendment scrutiny because it constitutes “government speech.”
The decision recognizes that commodity promotion programs do not infringe the First Amendment rights of the industry participants required to fund them where the government defines the central message to be communicated and oversees the program operation. Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the court’s opinion, and six justices voted to uphold the beef program.
NCC Chairman Woods Eastland said, “The decision by the Supreme Court in the beef promotion cases is great news for beef producers and cotton farmers alike. This decision should clarify the law regarding the constitutionality of agricultural research and promotion programs like the Cotton Research and Promotion Program. The cotton research and promotion program spurred a remarkable turn-around in the retail use of cotton textiles in the United States. U.S. cotton farmers want to promote the product they produce.”
Eastland said the 40 year-old Cotton Research and Promotion Program has helped the bottom line of every cotton producer in the United States, and it also generates positive returns for the entire cotton-apparel production chain. The program generates about $60 million per year that is used for research and promotion of cotton and cotton textiles and apparel.
The Cotton Research and Promotion Program also is facing a legal challenge. The program is subject to a lawsuit filed in the U.S. Court of International Trade and an administrative challenge filed with USDA.
Eastland noted that while the cotton industry is pleased with the beef decision, “each of these legal challenges will be determined on their own merits.”