The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan ruled that Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman acted within the law when she reached a settlement agreement continuing the pork checkoff program.

The Feb. 28, 2001 settlement agreement between the Agriculture Department (USDA), Michigan Pork Producers Association (MPPA), the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and three Michigan pork producers maintains the pork checkoff program. But it requires the administrative separation of checkoff and non-checkoff activities.

As outlined in the separation, pork promotion, education and research programs were transferred from NPPC to the National Pork Board.

“The rule of law has prevailed, as we always predicted it would,” says NPPC President Barb Determan. “The court's findings were clear and concise. There were never enough valid petitions filed to trigger a vote, and the secretary of agriculture does not have the legal authority to order a binding referendum unless 15% of bona fide pork producers demand one.

“This ruling not only allows the checkoff to continue, it keeps the program firmly under the control of pork producers, where it belongs,” she notes.

The ruling settled a court challenge filed in March by the Campaign for Family Farms on the continuance of the pork checkoff program.

The issue of constitutionality remains to be decided by the court, according to NPPC.