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A U.S. District Court judge in Michigan ruled that the Pork Production, Research and Consumer Education Act is unconstitutional and ordered a halt to national pork checkoff collections starting Nov. 24. The Campaign for Family Farms raised the challenge to the pork checkoff’s constitutionality.

Ruling in favor of the challengers, the Court ordered to deny the Summary Judgment and Motion to Strike that the Michigan Pork Producers, National Pork Producers Council, Pete Blauwickel, Bob Bloomer, High Lean Pork, California Pork Producers, Kentucky Pork Producers, Indiana Pork Producers, New York Pork Producers and Ohio Pork Producers had requested.

Dave Roper, NPPC president and pork producer from Kimberly, Idaho, says the NPPC believes the USDA and Department of Justice will immediately initiate a process to appeal the ruling.

“We expect the national pork checkoff and it’s programs to continue,” Roper says.

The USDA expressed concern as well. In a press release USDA Secretary Ann Veneman says, “I am disappointed that the U.S. District Court in Michigan has ruled that the Pork Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act is unconstitutional. USDA regards such programs, when properly administered, as effective tools for market enhancement. We are consulting with the U.S. Department of Justice to determine the next steps regarding this matter.”

Presenting the NPPC’s response, Roper said: “We strongly support the pork checkoff program as Congress enacted, and disagree with this ruling. We will ask the government to immediately request a stay of the District Court’s ruling. It is unfortunate that a group of farm activists has chose to force us into a battle to defend our right to fund the research and promotion of our products.”

The National Pork Board, which is responsible for the collection and administration of national pork checkoff funds, can not defend the checkoff legally. It is NPPC, which receives no checkoff money, that must tackle the issue because of its legislative, regulatory and public-policy role.

Also, the USDA’s deadline to determine the need for another vote on the national pork checkoff is closing in. By next June, the USDA is scheduled to survey U.S. pork producers whether or not they want to conduct another referendum vote concerning the national pork checkoff 

But for now a more immediate concern, Roper points out, is the impact that this new court ruling could have on state pork producer associations. “Pork producers are very concerned about this,” notes Roper. State associations tend to run on thin margins, and depend heavily on national checkoff contributions.

Sources: National Pork Producers Council, USDA