FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- A federal appeals court in San Francisco has rejected three grape growers' challenge to a mandatory advertising campaign for California table grapes.

Susan Neill Fresh Fruit and Lucas Brothers companies, both based in Visalia, and Delano Farms Co. claimed the California Table Grape Commission violated their free speech rights by requiring payment for generic ads that marketed grapes as a healthy snack.

The growers claimed the annual fees of 11.5 cents per box took away money they could use to market their fruit under specialized brand names.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the commission's ads were government speech, and could not be challenged under the First Amendment.

Copyright 2009 The AP.

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