The USDA and the pork producers have reached a settlement agreement that will continue the mandatory national pork checkoff for at least another two years.
The pork checkoff has been under scrutiny since last fall’s referendum vote on whether or not to continue the checkoff. Vote results, announced in early January, showed the checkoff had been voted down. However, a lawsuit filed by a group of independent pork producers, the Michigan Pork Producers Association and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) sought an injunction blocking then Secretary of Ag Dan Glickman from terminating the checkoff.
Although the settlement agreement reached by the pork producers and USDA continues the checkoff, there will be a few changes. The agreement terminates NPPC’s role as general contractor for checkoff-funded programs. With the change, NPPC will use non-checkoff or unrestricted funds to focus on legislative and regulatory issues. That leaves the National Pork Board as the recipient of checkoff funds for use in research, promotion and education programs.
The agreement also calls for the USDA to survey eligible pork producers and importers no sooner than June 2003 to determine whether 15 percent or more favor another referendum vote.
However, checkoff opponents don’t plan to wait that long. Opponents contend that the settlement agreement is not valid as they were co-defendants in the case but not included in the mediation settlement. Checkoff opponents plan to file suit against the USDA as they contend that Secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman, doesn’t have the authority to not terminate the checkoff as originally called for by the referendum vote results.
For more information about the pork checkoff, visit the Web site for our sister publication Pork. Visit www.porkmag.com and check the headlines in their Industry News section.