A bill passed by Congress that renews regulations for storing and handling U.S. grain also contains language ensuring that the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture will keep his word to pay all costs of the pork referendum.

The bill is the Grain Standards and Warehouse Improvement Act (HR 4788). The President raised concerns about parts of the bill but hasn't threatened to veto.

On Feb. 25, when he ordered the referendum, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said that USDA would pay all costs.

A Sept. 25 General Accounting Office (GAO) report says that USDA doesn't have the authority to pay for the referendum with appropriated funds. The report also points out that USDA underestimated the number of pork producers and therefore the number of valid signatures necessary to trigger a referendum.

HR 4788 directs USDA to use "funds of the Commodity Credit Corp. to pay for all expenses associated with the pork checkoff referendum."

The cost of the referendum is a moving target. The cost could be between $500,00 and $800,000, not counting Farm Service Agency (FSA) employee costs.