A federal judge's ruling in Michigan that the national pork checkoff is unconstitutional is a blow to the pork industry, says Craig Christensen, an Iowa pork producer and vice president of the National Pork Board.

"Obviously, the producer members who make up the National Pork Board are extremely disappointed by the ruling," he says.

The Department of Justice and USDA will continue to review the court's decision in order to determine the next step in the process.

Judge Richard Enslen of the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan ruled on Oct. 25 that the checkoff is unconstitutional and that all checkoff collections are to cease by Nov. 25.

"This is a blow to the industry," says Christensen. "The pork checkoff has worked for pork producers to promote pork, to increase demand, to expand markets and to provide on-farm information. Producers invest in the checkoff and the pork checkoff delivers, for all pork producers."

He points to the Pork. The Other White Meat advertising campaign as one example of what the pork checkoff has done to help increase American consumers' demand for pork. The checkoff also has played a major role in transforming the United States from a net pork importer to a net exporter, he contends. University of Missouri studies have shown that the export program has added more than $2 to the price of live hogs.

USDA Secretary Ann Veneman also expressed her disappointment in the Michigan court ruling. "The pork promotion program has helped increase demand for pork and pork products and has contributed to increased U.S. pork exports. These results have led to widespread support for the program by pork producers," she says.

National Pork Board is responsible for checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. The current national pork checkoff rate is 40 cents for each $100 value per hog sold.

The 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, check www.porkboard.org. 

National Pork Board.