CHALLENGE TO CHECKOFF SETTLEMENT WITHDRAWN BY CFF
Group surrenders claim to prevent the court from viewing the record
Legal challenges to the settlement continuing the Pork Checkoff Program have
ended in the trial court.
The Campaign for Family Farms (CFF) asked the Federal trial court to dismiss
its claim that USDA Secretary Ann Veneman's decision in Feb. 2001 to
continue the Pork Checkoff Program was "arbitrary and capricious."
The dismissal of the claim ends the sole remaining legal challenge to the
settlement agreement in the trial court. The constitutional challenges to
commodity checkoff programs continue.
In Dec. 2001, the federal court ruled that Veneman acted in accordance with
the law when she entered into a settlement agreement with the Michigan Pork
Producers Association, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and three
Michigan pork producers continuing the Pork Checkoff Program. The agreement
also required the administrative separation of checkoff and non-checkoff
That separation was completed in July, when responsibility for
pork promotional, educational, and research programs was transferred from
NPPC to the National Pork Board.
In its December decision, the trial court withheld judgment on CFF's
"arbitrary and capricious" claim pending its examination of the
administrative record in the case, which would have included USDA
decision-making documents and the pork checkoff petitions submitted by CFF.
Only the judge and lawyers for the two sides, by prior ruling, would have been able to examine the petitions. An examination of the petitions would have determined whether USDA staff were correct when they determined in January 2000 that CFF fell short of the number of petitions required to
trigger a pork checkoff referendum.
"CFF's decision effectively blocking the Michigan federal trial court from
examining the record in this case is regrettable but predictable," NPPC
President Barb Determan said. "For more than two years, CFF has been
declaring that enough valid petitions were submitted to USDA. This was
their chance to prove it and they walked away. It should now be clear to all that the legal foundation for the attack on Secretary Veneman's decision to continue the Pork Checkoff Program never existed, which is what we have
maintained all along."