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Agreement Reached in National Pork Check-Off Referendum Challenge

Livestock Update, April 2001

Allen Harper, Extension Animal Scientist-Swine, Tidewater AREC

Most folks in the livestock industry are aware that the USDA held a referendum in September of 2000 to determine if the national pork check-off program should continue or be eliminated. The check-off garners .45 of 1% of the value of all hogs and pigs sold for national pork promotion, research and education programs (Livestock Update, Sept. 2000). On January 11, 2001 then Secretary of Agriculture, Dan Glickman, announced the results indicating that continuation of the check-off had failed by a vote of 15,951 against continuation to 14,396 votes for continuation. Soon thereafter an injunction was filed on behalf of the Michigan Pork Producers Association and the Nation Pork Producers Council (NPPC) challenging the validity of the petition that called for the referendum as well as the legality of the referendum itself.

The legal proceeding for the injunction were originally scheduled to be in Federal District Court in Grand Rapids, Michigan on February 2, but were postponed to a date later this Spring. Since that postponement, a compromise agreement has been reached between the USDA and the Michigan Pork Producers Association and NPPC. In that agreement the USDA has agreed to set aside the check-off referendum results. Therefore the national pork check-off program will continue as it has since its inception in 1988 at the rate of .45 of 1% of the value of each hog and pig sold. However, as part of the agreement the National Pork Producers Council must end its role as general contractor for check-off funded programs and sever relations with the National Pork Board, the USDA appointed Board that collects and administers the check-off. The National Pork Board must now administer the check-off programs or contract to do so with entities other than NPPC. NPPC will continue to operate from its national headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa but will be funded strictly through non-check-off sources. In addition the agreement includes a provision stating that USDA will conduct another referendum in or after June of 2003 to reevaluate the effectiveness of the national pork check-off program.

This agreement also ensures that state pork associations can continue to be funded under previous formulas in which portions of nationally collected check-off funds were directed back to state associations. Under this situation state associations, including the Virginia Pork Industry Association, should continue to function.

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