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“Got Milk?” Promotion Found to be Illegal; Effect on TIA’s Tire Industry Checkoff Program Uncertain

On Feb. 24, a federal appeals court ruled that the familiar “Got Milk?” dairy promotion violates the First Amendment by forcing all farmers to pay for the ads, whether they agree with the ads or not. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled that federal laws requiring dairy farmers to pay fees to promote the industry infringe “free speech and association rights.” The decision could have serious ramifications for the tire industry, especially with regard to the Tire Industry Association’s (TIA) ongoing support and formal proposal for a tire industry checkoff program.

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PHILADELPHIA — On Feb. 24, a federal appeals court ruled that the familiar “Got Milk?” dairy promotion violates the First Amendment by forcing all farmers to pay for the ads, whether they agree with the ads or not.

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The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled that federal laws requiring dairy farmers to pay fees to promote the industry infringe “free speech and association rights.”

The decision could have serious ramifications for the tire industry, especially with regard to the Tire Industry Association’s (TIA) ongoing support and formal proposal for a tire industry checkoff program.

Donald Shea, president and CEO of the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), said the decision adds “something concrete” to the RMA’s original concerns of the legal hurdles a checkoff program for the tire industry might present.

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“RMA does not support or oppose the checkoff program” said Shea. “We want to raise several issues that must be answered before we can even consider such a program. First, and most important, is dealer support. If there is no dealer support, the whole deck of cards collapses. The second issue is the legal hurdle, and with this most recent decision, now we’ve got something concrete backing it up.”

Shea also added that this most recent court ruling is the third court decision within the last eight months to invalidate a checkoff program. “First was the beef industry decision last July, and the second one was the pork industry this past October. What these three separate decisions do is issue caution to anyone pursuing a checkoff program. Courts have indicated that there are some First Amendment hurdles,” he said.

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Shea noted, however, that he needed more details about TIA’s proposed checkoff concept before he could deliver a full assessment of the implications of the court decision.

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