The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has published a rule to determine participation in a survey later this year on gauging support to continue the mandatory pork checkoff.

"With concerns over irregularities in the voting process on the previous petition and referendum on the pork checkoff, we urge USDA to conduct this survey in 2003 on behalf of all pork producers so that they can decide," says NPPC President Jon Caspers, Swaledale, IA, pork producer.

The rule will identify a portion of pork producers who would be invited to sign a petition providing for a continuation referendum if 15% of the eligible producers support the referendum.

The rule would include a 60-day comment period after which a final rule would be published before the survey is conducted.

COOL Opposed

NPPC delegates overwhelmingly supported a resolution to pursue a repeal of the mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) program for meat products before it goes into effect.

"Research suggests that COOL will result in negative impacts for the U.S. pork industry with no real benefits," says Caspers. Mandatory COOL could potentially cost pork producers up to $10/head, adds Beth Anne Mumford, spokeswoman for the North Carolina Pork Council, which sponsored the measure.

"With the announcement recently that USDA will be putting together a series of listening and education sessions to gain more public input from around the country, we are encouraged that NPPC can now move forward in working with the administration to voice the concerns of pork producers about reevaluating the negative impacts and moving to a voluntary system," says Caspers. Hearings will be held in 12 states.

Delegates also passed a resolution asking USDA to expand quarterly hog inventory reports to include all hogs and pigs on the North American continent. It would more accurately reflect the number of hogs sent to North American meatpacking plants.

All 44 state producer delegates supported a resolution for congressional study of the issues of market access, packer ownership and the concentration of pork packing and swine production, says Caspers.

Support was also given to a plan to double state contributions to NPPC to aid the organization’s voluntary producer investment program.

Honors

The 2003 Distinguished Service Award given annually at Pork Forum was presented to Al Christian. Several past and present pork industry leaders have been students of Christian’s at Iowa State University while he managed the swine teaching farm.

"He taught his students how to raise hogs, but perhaps even more important, he taught them about life, always emphasizing the vital role hog farming and agriculture play in the social fabric of America," says Tom Floy, Pork Board member and a pork producer from Thornton, IA.