The Campaign for Family Farms has filed a federal lawsuit against USDA alleging the Bush administration had no authority to continue a $50 million annual pork checkoff program after it was voted down in a referendum last fall. The lawsuit also requests implementing an injunction stopping the collection of mandatory pork checkoff funds until a hearing is held.

The activist group contends Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman went beyond her authority when she agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. pork industry and allow the pork checkoff program to continue until at least June 2003.

"This lawsuit is about family farmers fighting back," says Rhonda Perry, CFF spokesperson. "We are confident that we have a very strong case and that ultimately democracy will prevail."

USDA has not reviewed the lawsuit, but a spokesman says the department did not have a strong case for ending the pork checkoff program and the settlement with the U.S. pork industry was fair for both sides.

In January, a group of independent pork producers, the Michigan Pork Producers Association and the National Pork Producers Council filed a lawsuit in Michigan federal court challenging the results of the pork checkoff referendum, citing numerous irregularities in the validation and voting process.

Source: Reuters