On Nov. 15, the Sixth District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, OH, granted a stay of a Michigan federal court ruling declaring the pork checkoff program unconstitutional.

The stay was requested by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to allow the government time to appeal the Oct. 25 verdict of U.S. District Court Judge Richard Enslen. DOJ is representing the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Pork Board in the suit.

The stay clears the way for the pork checkoff to continue while the Court of Appeals considers the appeal of the Michigan ruling.

“Since producers began the pork checkoff in the mid-1980s, pork consumption has increased by 21%, research has been conducted on key producer issues and pork has become the fastest-growing meat category in America's restaurants,” says Ogden, IA, producer Craig Christensen, vice president of the National Pork Board. “You bet we are glad to see this program continue. The pork checkoff provides the tools we all need on our farms, but don't have time or resources to do individually.”

In the next few weeks, the Appeals Court will set the schedule for briefs and oral arguments to be heard, probably during the first quarter of 2003, comments Mike Simpson, executive vice president of the National Pork Board. Based on that schedule, he speculates that the court could render a final decision later in 2003.

Should the Appeals Court rule against the government and the Pork Board, the parties would have 45 days from the date of the appeals decision to either terminate the checkoff program or seek an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.