United States v. United Foods

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In United States v. United Foods, 533 U.S. 405 (2001), a 6-3 U.S. Supreme Court applied the First Amendment to a law that required mushroom producers to subsidize speech with which some may disagree:[1]

The statute in question, enacted by Congress in 1990, is the Mushroom Promotion, Research, and Consumer Information Act, 104 Stat. 3854, 7 U.S.C. § 6101 et seq. The Act authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a Mushroom Council to pursue the statute's goals. Mushroom producers and importers, as defined by the statute, submit nominations from among their group to the Secretary, who then designates the Council membership. 7 U.S.C. §§ 6104(b)(1)(B), 6102(6), 6102(11). To fund its programs, the Act allows the Council to impose mandatory assessments upon handlers of fresh mushrooms in an amount not to exceed one cent per pound of mushrooms produced or imported. § 6104(g)(2). The assessments can be used for "projects of mushroom promotion, research, consumer information, and industry information." § 6104(c)(4). It is undisputed, though, that most monies raised by the assessments are spent for generic advertising to promote mushroom sales.

The Court affirmed a ruling below that these mandatory assessments to be used for generalized advertising violated the First Amendment.

Subsequent decisions cast some doubt on the strength of this decision, which was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy.


  1. Id. at 408.