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January 31, 2002   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
January 31, 2002

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 activities.

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."

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