USDA has and will continue to support the national pork checkoff program, William Hawks, USDA undersecretary of marketing and regulatory programs, told pork producers during last week's National Pork Industry Forum in Denver, Colo. Hawks went so far as to say that USDA will defend the checkoff in the future.

"I want to share with you, as I have before, my commitment– and USDA's commitment– to checkoff programs and to the National Pork Board," he said. "All you have to do is look at the 'Pork. The Other White Meat' campaign to see results. It is the fifth most recognized advertising slogan in use today."

Referring to a meeting with NPB members held last August, Hawks said: "I told you then that I thought the checkoff programs were constitutional. They are good self-help programs, and we in USDA and the Justice Department will defend those programs to the Nth degree."

Hawks told Pork Forum attendees: "I'm here today to reiterate our (USDA) support for checkoff programs in general and your programs in particular. We continue to make that commitment to you. We feel very strongly– I personally feel very strongly, about this position"

Hawks also recognizes the importance of the National Pork Producers Council's role in dealing with the pork industry's regulatory and legislative issues. "I think it's absolutely crucial that these two organizations (NPPC and NPB) remain very strong and very viable," he said.

Of course, under the pork industry/USDA checkoff settlement agreement, NPPC and NPB must operate separate from each other. NPPC will address legislative, regulatory, public policy and advocacy issues at the state and national level with no national pork checkoff money. NPB will collect all national checkoff funds and can only direct those dollars toward education, research and promotion.