The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled Oct. 22 that the Pork Checkoff is unconstitutional, upholding a November 2002 decision by a federal-court judge in Michigan.
The Pork Checkoff was created by Congress so all pork producers would contribute to a fund for promotion, research and consumer information about pork. The federal lawsuit and subsequent appeal focused on whether the Checkoff violates the First Amendment rights of some producers who disagree with specific Checkoff promotional messages.
"This is disappointing news for America's pork producers," said Craig Christensen, a pork producer from Ogden, Iowa, and president of the National Pork Board, which collects Checkoff funds and manages Checkoff-funded programs. "At the same time, we recognize this is just one more step in a lengthy legal process in which the Pork Checkoff is represented by the U.S. government."
Until directed otherwise, Christensen said, the Pork Checkoff will continue to provide programs for all producers to increase the demand for pork and to provide access to the knowledge and opportunities that allow all producers to be competitive.
The U.S. Department of Justice, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will determine the next steps in the legal process. The Department of Justice has 45 days to decide whether to ask for a rehearing by the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati. The Department of Justice also can seek review of the case by the Supreme Court. Christensen said that the USDA and Department of Justice have supported the Pork Checkoff program throughout the legal process.
Since 1987, the Checkoff has been at work for producers to promote pork, to increase demand for pork, to expand markets for pork and to provide on-farm information. "The success of the Pork Checkoff has been well documented," Christensen said. "We all invest in the Checkoff and the Checkoff delivers, especially for pork producers."
Through Checkoff-funded promotions and advertising, Pork. The Other White Meat® has become one of America's most recognized advertising taglines. Exports of U.S. Pork have set new records for 11 consecutive years. Checkoff-funded research continues to help U.S. farmers produce safe, high-quality pork and to be environmental stewards, Christensen said.
National Pork Board has responsibility for Checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. Through a legislative national Pork Checkoff, pork producers invest $0.40 for each $100 value of hogs sold. The Pork Checkoff funds national and state programs in advertising, consumer information, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, technology, swine health and pork safety. For information on Checkoff-funded programs, pork producers can call the Producer Service Center at 800-456-PORK or check the Internet at www.porkboard.org.