USDA National Pork Checkoff Referendum Results
Livestock Update, February 2001
Allen Harper, Extension Animal Scientist - Swine, Tidewater AREC
A national pork checkoff program has been in effect since initial passage by pork producers in 1987 followed by USDA implementation of the program in 1988. The current checkoff rate is 45 cents per hundred dollars value of all hogs and pigs sold. Funds are collected and managed by a 15-member USDA appointed National Pork Board. The funds are used in national pork promotion, research and education programs, which are typically developed and operated under contract with the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). For example, the advertising campaign "Pork, The Other White Meat" was developed by NPPC and funded by the national checkoff. Other programs have included research and education programs in pork exportation, food service use of pork, pork quality assurance, manure management on hog farms, swine genetics, swine health and nutrition, and youth swine education programs. Based on established formulas, a portion of the checkoff funds come back to state pork producer organizations to conduct state and local pork promotion, research and education programs.
In the late 1990's an effort by some pork producers and producer groups was initiated to petition the Secretary of Agriculture to conduct a referendum of pork producers to determine if the mandatory national pork checkoff program should continue. Based on those petitions, Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman ordered the referendum in February of 2000. The referendum was held in September of 2000 with local USDA Farm Service Agency offices serving as sites for voter verification and voting.
On January 11, 2001 Secretary Glickman announced the results of the referendum. The results indicated 14,396 votes for continuing the checkoff program and 15,951 votes against continuation of the checkoff program. Based on this Secretary Glickman has directed the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service to issue a final rule to terminate the checkoff program.
At this point the timetable for discontinuance of the program is unknown. And in fact NPPC president Craig Jarmilek, a pork producer from Forest River, North Dakota, has announced that an injunction will be filed in an attempt to overturn the decision. Under any circumstance, NPPC administrators have indicated that currently scheduled educational programs will proceed this year. For example, the World Pork Expo, an annual pork educational and promotional event, will be held on June 7, 8, and 9 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa. A swine educators conference for Extension Agents, Specialists and other educators in the swine industry will be held September 20 and 21 in Des Moines. And recently, a new educational website on manure management, environmental regulations for hog farms and odor abatement was developed by NPPC and will be available on the world wide web by February 1 of this year. The website address will be "PorkEnvironment.org".
In Virginia the Virginia Pork Industry Board as appointed by the Governor is charged with directing the use of pork checkoff funds that are returned to the state from the national pork checkoff. Prior to establishment of the national pork checkoff, Virginia already had a state pork checkoff program in effect. Therefore, it is feasible that a pork checkoff program could continue in Virginia even if the national program were terminated. Details of how such a state program would operate and function are not available at this point in time.