While the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the constitutionality of the Beef Promotion and Research Act, it did not act on a pending petition for a writ of certiorari in a similar case involving the National Pork Checkoff. “But this is good news for pork producers,” says Dave Culbertson, a pork producer from Geneseo, Ill., and president of the National Pork Board. He expects the Court’s ruling to apply to the pork case.
“The Court’s decision is a victory for all commodity programs, including the Pork Checkoff,” he notes. “We look forward to the specific conclusion of the pork case as well, so that all producers can come together to move the industry forward and to focus precious industry resources on improving the marketplace for pork."
Culbertson points out that NPB's plan “is to continue funding the programs that help producers build demand in the domestic and international markets and support research that helps all producers compete.”
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion that the messages of the checkoff do constitute government speech and thus are not subject to the First Amendment challenges brought by the plaintiffs.
The Supreme Court, in reviewing the “government speech” defense presented by the U.S. Department of Justice, notes that Congress and the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture set out the overarching message for the Beef Checkoff Program when it created the Beef Promotion and Research Act.
Congress approved both the beef and pork checkoffs, which have been in place since 1986.
National Pork Board is responsible for checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. Through a legislative national Pork Checkoff, pork producers invest $0.40 for each $100 value of hogs sold. Pork importers also invest a comparable amount. The pork checkoff funds national and state programs in advertising, consumer information, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, technology, swine health and pork safety. For information on checkoff-funded programs, pork producers can call (800) 456-PORK or check the Internet at porkboard.org.