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A Pennsylvania dairy farming family is challenging the mandatory promotional campaign that pays for “Got Milk” ads, arguing farmers shouldn’t be forced to pay for advertising they don’t agree with. Joe and Brenda Cochran of Westfield, Pa., were scheduled to file suit in U.S. District Court Tuesday morning, seeking an end to the mandatory fee of 15 cents per 100 pounds of milk — roughly 2 cents a gallon. The money pays for ads featuring celebrities wearing milk mustaches, as well as commercials touting “Ahh, the power of cheese.” Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a similar program for mushroom growers violated the First Amendment guarantee of free speech, but it has ruled that joint advertisements are constitutional in heavily regulated industries such as California fruit production. The Cochrans, who raise 150 cows on their 200-acre farm in north-central Pennsylvania, say they produce a superior milk without growth hormones and don’t want to pay to promote generic milk. “We try to follow the old practices, as opposed to the more modern concentrated operations,” said Joe Cochran, 51, whose family pays about $3,500 a year in promotion fees. “We have the cows spread out — a little more space, a little more freedom and a little more sunshine.” Similar legal challenges are pending for beef and pork promotions. “The First Amendment affords someone the right to speech, and also the right not to speak,” said Eric Schippers, executive director of the Center for Individual Freedom, an Arlington, Va., group that is paying for the Cochrans’ lawsuit. A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the program, declined to comment specifically on the litigation, but said the program has been an effective tool to increase dairy sales. “As such, the department has been supportive of using those tools,” said spokesman Jerry Redding. The Cochrans’ lawyer, Ben Yale of Waynesfield, Ohio, said that was not the issue. “This isn’t a challenge to the effectiveness of the programs,” he said. “It’s simply whether a producer should have a choice. Copyright 2002 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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