At the 2016 Pork Forum, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s statements falsely threw the pork industry under the proverbial bus in a testimony to the House Agricultural Committee recently, blaming them for initiating settlement efforts. Now, following industry outrage, Vilsack has clarified his statements.
Speaking at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) in Washington last week, Vilsack amended his original testimony.
“I may have gotten a little ahead of my skis here and may have mischaracterized the conversations,” Vilsack said. “The conversations have been about what is consequence of losing and what could be worked out that would be both beneficial to the industry and also would prevent us from an adverse court decision.”
Of the pork industry, he added, “We probably need to get more involved in these conversations than we have. I have directed our team to make sure they are fully briefed on what's going on.”
The lawsuit was filed in 2012 against the USDA by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) regarding the sale of the popular “Pork. The Other White Meat” slogan between the National Pork Board and National Pork Producers Council. HSUS argued that the sale and payments were unlawful since the Pork Board is prohibited from using checkoff dollars to influence legislation. Read more.
A judge dismissed the case in 2013.
Rumors of a possible settlement swirled last year after the appellate court overturned the lower court’s 2013 decision, sending the case back into the courtroom. Attempts by the industry to intercede on a possible settlement with HSUS were denied.
Vilsack points out that “preliminary motions within the case which suggest that the courts may have some serious concerns about this” initiated the potential settlement discussions.
HSUS has denied it has engaged in new settlement talks with USDA since December.