PORK CHECKOFF PROGRAM NARROWLY DEFEATED
"MONTGOMERY, Ala." The Alabama Pork Producers, a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation, expressed disappointment today in USDA's announcement that pork producers had decided to end their national checkoff program.
"For the past 15 years, pork producers have benefited from the research and promotion generated by their checkoff dollars," said L.O. Bishop, a Colbert County hog farmer and president of the Alabama Pork Producers. "We have seen pork consumption increase. We've learned to produce leaner products more efficiently, and we've made huge strides in protecting our environment. Without this program, the Alabama Pork Producers will continue working to improve the profitability of hog farming, but it will be more difficult without the support of the program and producers in other states."
The pork checkoff program, created by the Pork Act of 1985, has funded various research projects and was responsible for creating the popular ad campaign, "Pork. The Other White Meat'." Funding for these initiatives comes from producers who pay 45 cents for every $100 of gross sales. According to USDA, farmers narrowly defeated the checkoff program in a September referendum by a vote of 15,951 to 14,396.
Individual pork producers and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) are uniting to file an injunction to overturn the decision based on voting irregularities. NPPC has argued that the secretary of agriculture lacked the authority to call for a referendum because he did not collect sufficient signatures on petitions submitted by farmers opposing the checkoff. In addition, pork producers who favor the checkoff program have reported that some producers were allowed to vote twice while others were disqualified because of mistakes made by USDA.
Craig Jarolimek, a North Dakota hog farmer and NPPC president, said USDA let politics influence the referendum. "Instead of a sincere attempt to capture the will of the majority of legitimate pork producers about their checkoff, USDA let political motivation decide the fate of one of the most successful commodity programs in American agriculture," Jarolimek said.
Bishop said the checkoff program has helped make the United States the second largest pork-exporter in the world. "In Alabama, the pork checkoff also has helped fund programs such as Ag in the Classroom and 4-H and FFA events," he added. "As a pork producer, I'm proud of the investment we've made in our industry, and I'm disappointed that this program might end because of a flawed voting process."
According to NPPC, checkoff promotions have helped put pork on an increasing number of restaurant menus, increasing sales by 17 percent over the last three years.