Next month, pork producer delegates will decide the fate of a proposal for a new voluntary checkoff. The proposed checkoff, called a voluntary investment program (V.I.P.), is for 5 cents/market hog or sow. It would be used to fund the growing need for lobbying, legal and export trade efforts. Both state producer groups and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) would share the proceeds equally.

The current mandatory Pork Act checkoff can only be used for producer education, pork promotion and research.

The NPPC delegates will hold their special session Sept. 15 in Washington, DC, just prior to the annual NPPC legislative seminar. During the annual Pork Industry Forum held last March, the NPPC delegates approved holding the special session this fall to consider the voluntary checkoff. This gave the delegates time to visit with their constituents about the proposal.

Since Pork Forum, at least two states held delegate meetings. In Iowa, delegates gathered to discuss the proposal. Because a quorum was not present, no official action was taken. But in an informal vote, the attendees overwhelmingly approved the voluntary checkoff, according to the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

In Illinois, producers openly discussed the issue during a special delegate meeting of the Illinois Pork Producers Association. No official position was taken.

The Minnesota Pork Producers Association board of directors voted to have their delegates vote in favor of the program.

The resolution for the V.I.P. includes the following points:

* Initiation of a voluntary investment program at point of animal sale;

* A minimum level of 5 cents/market hog or sow;

* Funds from the V.I.P. would be split with 50% to state producer groups and 50% to NPPC; and,

* The Packer Processor Industry Council (PPIC) be strongly urged to establish their own V.I.P. contribution of 2.5 cents/market hog or sow with all funds going to NPPC.

The current Pork Act checkoff does not change with approval of this voluntary checkoff. The mandatory checkoff rate is 45 cents/$100 value of market hogs. It raised $61 million in 1997.

Because these funds cannot be used for legal, legislative and export work, both NPPC and state producer groups have needed to raise non-checkoff funds. NPPC generates $2.6 million/year through World Pork Expo, industry contributions and PPIC. That money is used mainly to fund NPPC's Washington, DC, office.

In total, state producer groups generate about $3 million in non-checkoff funds through membership, trade shows and allied industry contributions.

But as the environmental, legislative, and legal needs increase for states in particular, non-checkoff money is running short. A special non-checkoff working group of NPPC producers made this conclusion, according to Charlie Harness, NPPC vice president of communications.

The group concluded that the non-checkoff needs at the state level will increase 25% and at NPPC 20% each year for the next three years. This will be a total of $3.25 million/year more for each of the next three years.