It's the Fees


California grape growers do not have to pay for the generic "Good things come in bunches" ad campaign. The Ninth District Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the 13 cents-per-box fees growers were required to pay the California Table Grape Commission under a 1967 state law violates "First Amendment protections against state compulsion to fund generic advertising." The case follows a precedent set by the US Supreme Court, which ruled for independent mushroom farmers in a similar case in 2001.

This ruling differs from a 1999 case in which the court upheld fees extracted from dairy farmers to fund the inescapable "It's the Cheese" ads. Confusingly, the issue here seems to be that the grape growers program was not collective enough:

The main legal issue was whether the grape ads were part of an overall program of regulation that was meant to substitute collective decision-making for independent competitive choices. If so, the program would be valid under a 1997 U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding California's federally regulated marketing orders for nectarines, plums and peaches.

But the appeals court said the table grape program had none of the collective features of the fruit program—controls on quality, price and output, and a federal antitrust exemption—and was mainly devoted to generic ads, like the unconstitutional mushroom program.