The constitutional challenge to the pork checkoff program is proceeding, according to Mike Simpson, executive vice president of the National Pork Board.

Last month, USDA, the Pork Board and individuals and groups — for and against the pork checkoff — exchanged factual materials related to the challenge.

The next step is for all parties to provide the court with written arguments explaining why they believe the checkoff program is constitutional or not, says Simpson.

After deliberations, the judge either will issue summary judgment for one side or the other, or call for a court hearing on the issue.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is representing USDA and the Pork Board in the suit. In a similar constitutional challenge to the beef checkoff, DOJ has argued that the checkoff does not infringe cattle producers' First Amendment rights of free speech and association because checkoff-funded speech is government speech, and therefore not subject to the First Amendment.

The constitutional challenge is the second part of the judicial review of the overall pork checkoff program by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. Earlier this year, legal challenges to the settlement agreement between USDA and pork producer groups ended, allowing the checkoff program to continue.