National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) President Barb Determan, Early, IA, chastised activists for using “empty rhetoric” in an attempt to confuse producers about the checkoff referendum.
The court made it clear the petition for the vote was 15% short of the required signatures, she says. The U.S. District Court in western Michigan hearing the case also says the former secretary of agriculture usurped his powers, and that the process leading to the termination of the pork checkoff was arguably flawed.
“As pork producers, we have more questions about how this whole situation was handled than we can get answers for,” says Determan.
“The flaws in the process don't just stop with illegally calling for the referendum; they continue with USDA's own Office of Inspector General (OIG),” she adds.
NPPC presented evidence to OIG of voting and ballot irregularities. OIG responded in just three business days, while it took 17 weeks to audit NPPC's use of checkoff funds.
In review, at the end of February, a settlement agreement was reached between NPPC, Michigan Pork Producers Association, a group of three independent pork producers and USDA.
Also on Feb. 28, the NPPC filed a lawsuit against the Campaign for Family Farms (CFF), the chief activist group, for their part in the checkoff fight. A day later, USDA was dismissed from the case.
In mid-March, the CFF filed a motion to file a cross-claim in order to bring USDA back into the case. The CFF waited until May 11 to actually file their cross-claim so they could create a media blitz when Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman was in Iowa, says Determan.
NPPC, Michigan Pork Producers and the three independent producers also filed a motion April 6 for a preliminary injunction against the CFF and other farm activist groups for their part in the disruption and ransacking of NPPC's Washington D.C. offices on March 26.
In early May, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, which also is hearing the checkoff case, enjoined those groups from future protests at NPPC's offices or from sending any harassing communications to NPPC employees at work or at home.
Illinois Backs Checkoff
The Illinois House of Representatives has approved a measure that would give the state's producers the ability to continue a mandatory checkoff program, should the current federal one cease to exist.
While the checkoff issue was being decided earlier this year, most states set up backup plans (see “State Reactions to Checkoff Resolution Varies,” May 15, 2001, page 14).
Under the current federal program, pork producers pay 45¢/$100 of value.
Illinois asks pork producers to participate in a voluntary investment program that funds work on legislative issues.
Senate Bill 405 would allow the Illinois Pork Producers Association to establish a checkoff plan similar to the national program, but only if the federal one ceases to exist.
Pork Board Seeks CEO
The National Pork Board (NPB) has begun its search for a chief executive officer (CEO) as part of the pork checkoff settlement agreement.
“The new NPB CEO must be an individual who is committed to the pork industry and driven by the desire to efficiently and effectively administer the pork checkoff program priorities as established by pork producers and importers,” says Hugh Dorminy, NPB vice president and CEO Search Committee chair.
A clarification is necessary on the May 15, 2001, story “Waterkeeper Lawsuits Target Pork Industry.”
Smithfield Foods is contributing $15 million to North Carolina State University to fund the study of environmentally superior technologies for manure management.
The $50 million amount is the total contribution from pork companies with financial interests in North Carolina to the state. It is a $1/head payment, not to exceed $2 million/year for 25 years.
The funds are to be used to enhance the state's environment, as deemed appropriate by the state attorney general.