The Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985 (Act) directed the Secretary of Agriculture (Secretary) to implement an advertising policy promoting the consumption of beef. Pursuant to the Act, the Secretary imposed an assessment on all sales and importation of cattle and beef and created a board to come up with the advertising. Two associations whose members paid the assessment (plaintiffs) sued the federal government (defendants), asserting, among other things, that the assessment violated their members’ First Amendment rights by forcing them to subsidize speech with which they did not agree. The district court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.