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I n a ruling that’s sure to shock agricultural associations statewide, a Fresno appeal court on Monday ruled that compelled funding for generic advertising violates individual produce growers’ free speech rights.

“In the absence of an affirmative and binding legislative or administrative determination that intervention in the market processes in the first instance is necessary,” the court held 2-1, “there is no legitimate basis for interference with the free speech rights of dissenting growers.”

In Gerawan Farming Inc. v. Lyons, F031142, a family owned plum-growing business near Fresno challenged the California Plum Marketing Board’s power to assess fees for commercial advertising for the overall plum industry. The California Supreme Court took up the case and ruled late last year that such mandatory assessments could indeed violate commercial speech rights.

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