What Happened When Hog Farmers Voted to End the Pork Check-off in 2001?

What Happened When Hog Farmers Voted to End the Pork Check-off in 2001?
Campaign for Family Farms
Columbia, Missouri
USDA Rejects Hog Farmers’ Democratic Vote
Cut Back Room Deal with NPPC to Keep Pork Checkoff in Place

In a backroom deal announced today, the USDA agreed not to terminate the mandatory pork checkoff. USDA’s agreement, made with the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), is meant to overturn the democratic vote of hog farmers who voted to end the pork tax 53% to 47% in a nationwide referendum held five months ago. In Missouri, 64% of hog farmers that voted in the referendum favored termination of the checkoff.

The USDA/NPPC deal was taking place at the same time that Secretary Veneman’s office was refusing to meet with hog farmer members of the Campaign for Family Farms. The deal was made as part of a settlement to NPPC’s lawsuit against USDA in U. S. District Court in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Iowa hog farmer and Iowa CCI Wayne Demmer said, “This is America. Our nation was formed because we were taxed while being denied democracy. Democracy is our most basic right.”

Rhonda Perry, a Missouri hog farmer and member of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, has been active in the three year effort to end the mandatory pork checkoff. “NPPC and USDA have declared war against independent family farmers and democracy. We’ll sue the USDA to protect our vote and we’ll work with the thousands of hog farmers who voted in the referendum to ensure the checkoff is ended.”

Paul Sobosinski, a Minnesota hog farmer and spokesperson for the Campaign for Family Farms, stated that this deal was business as usual for the NPPC and the USDA. “This is a perfect example of why independent hog farmers voted to end the checkoff. The NPPC spends their time and our money to thwart democracy.”

The Campaign for Family Farms will oppose the NPPC’s and USDA’s settlement agreement in U. S. District Court in Grand Rapids Michigan. The Campaign contends that Veneman’s failure to terminate the pork checkoff is an arbitrary and capricious administrative action. It was absolutely clear throughout the referendum process that USDA would terminate the checkoff program upon a majority vote in favor of such termination.

The final referendum rules provided for termination of the program upon majority vote of those producers and importers casting ballots in the referendum. Thousands of farmers cast their ballots in this referendum with the understanding that the program would end upon a majority vote in favor of termination. Veneman’s refusal to complete the termination not only violates the basic principles of democracy, it also violates the referendum rules.

Sam Latchford is a Missouri Rural Crisis Center member and hog farmer from Shelby County. “George Bush got elected by campaigning on tax cuts, based on the philosophy that each individual, not some distant bureaucracy, should make decisions on how individual’s hard-earned dollars are spent. Yet USDA’s first major action under Bush was to keep a tax in place that had been voted down by hog farmers. If this is any example of how Bush plans to cut taxes and ‘help’ family farmers, then rural America is in serious trouble.”

This was also sent to Congress as an open letter.