As the pork checkoff referendum vote draws near, National Hog Farmer is committed to providing pork producer readers with background and current information to help them cast an informed, decisive vote. This month we present:

* The latest independent review of the pork checkoff program's performance over a 12-year period (1987-1998), presented by Texas A&M commodity promotion evaluation specialists at World Pork Expo;

* Some thoughts from sheep industry representatives and almond growers about the value of their commodity checkoffs and what happens when the programs are lost;

* A quick review of a dozen commodity checkoff programs and their assessments;

* Comments from National Pork Board President John Kellogg; and

* Current reports from some checkoff-funded programs.

For next month, we've asked the heads of the four major departments within the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) to identify the primary checkoff-funded programs that have had a major, positive impact on pork producers and the pork industry; NPPC staffers will review the checkoff funds allocated to the respective program and provide an estimate of the return on investment for pork producers.

And, the opposition to the pork checkoff will be allowed to present their views. They will be asked to be specific about their opposition to the current checkoff programs and asked to share their thoughts on a contingency plan for pork producer and industry programs, should the pork checkoff be defeated.

The date for the vote had not been set when this issue went to press. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials are trying to schedule a vote before the main part of harvest gets underway in the Midwest. National Hog Farmer will provide full voting dates and details on our Web site - - as soon as they are announced. Voting details also will appear in next month's issue.