The pork checkoff program will continue to operate, and a decision about its future will be put on hold, while the U.S. Supreme Court hears an appeal of an 8th Circuit Appellate Court ruling that found the Beef Promotion and Research Act in violation of the First Amendment.

Similar to the beef checkoff challenge, a district court judge ruled in 2002 that mandatory collections of the pork checkoff violated the First Amendment rights of producers who disagreed with certain messages paid for with checkoff funds. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision in 2003, resulting in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Justice Department requesting that the Supreme Court hear the case.

“I'm glad this has happened. I just really felt all along that the commodity checkoff cases in question needed to go to the Supreme Court,” says Craig Christensen, Ogden, IA, pork producer and National Pork Board president.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the beef checkoff case by the first half of 2005. It may take a year or more to decide the pork checkoff case, he speculates.

In the meantime, Christensen wants pork producers to participate in how pork checkoff programs are run, and to help build educational programs to keep producers competitive.

“We are not going to just sit on our hands. We have some great opportunities to move protein in the food chain to meet increasing pork demand both domestically and from an export standpoint,” he emphasizes. “We need to take advantage of those opportunities, and that is what the pork checkoff is set up to do.”

Adds Illinois Pork Producers Association President Art Lehmann of Strawn, IL: “Since 1985, pork producers have relied on the pork checkoff to increase demand and expand markets for pork and to provide on-farm information. We believe that the success of the pork checkoff has been well documented.”

Producers can learn more about the pork checkoff by contacting their state office or by calling the Producer Service Center at (800) 456-7675 or visiting www.porkboard.org.