After much debate, Pork Act Delegates elected to leave the national pork checkoff rate at its current level of 40 cents per $100 of value for each market hog. The Pork Act Delegates are producer representatives from the National Pork Board’s federation of states. The group met March 7-8 at the 2003 National Pork Industry Forum in Dallas, Texas.
Five resolutions from various state pork producer associations proposed action that varied from maintaining the checkoff as is, to dropping the rate to zero. A resolution that would have reduced the rate to 35 cents per $100 value of a market hog received the greatest consideration. At the debate’s core was producer concern over National Pork Producer Council funding, which can only occur through non-checkoff means. NPPC addresses public policy and advocacy issues for U.S. pork producers.
NPPC has a new voluntary Producer Consent funding program, which asks pork producer participants to commit 10 cents per $100 value for each market hog sold, but the program has been slow to get off the ground. Consequently, NPPC’s available funds for the year ahead are dramatically below the association’s minimal budget of $2.8 million. Ironically, NPPC has initiated and pursued the legal battle against the national pork checkoff on behalf of NPB and U.S. pork producers. A Federal District Court will begin hearings on the most recent pork checkoff appeal on Friday, March 14.
Some delegates supporting a mandatory checkoff reduction argued that another 5-cent cut, from the 5-cent reduction that last year’s Pork Forum delegates approved and USDA granted, would free up the dimes needed to encourage Producer Consent program participation.
On the other side of the debate, delegates argued the risks of slashing NPB programs further following last year’s checkoff rate cut would be too detrimental to the industry’s education, research and promotional programs. NPB officials reported spending projections for 2003 at $42.7 million. That budget is about 11 percent lower than in 2002, and many previously funded programs are not included in the plans for 2003, notes Steve Murphy, NPB chief executive officer. For 2003, Checkoff collections are estimated at $44 million, of which about $35 million is targeted for national programs and $9 million for state programs.
The Iowa delegation argued most fervently in favor of maintaining the current checkoff rate.
“The unity and optimism of pork producers about the pork checkoff was clear today,” said Hugh Dorminy, NPB president and pork producer from Russellville, Ark. “Checkoff’s future isn’t about individual pork producers at Forum. It’s about all producers working together to deal with the issues affecting us all.”
The Delegates’ decision to keep the checkoff rate at 40 cents was part of a resolution that included an amendment to create a task force to study the creation of a single industry organization. The task force will be a formed jointly by the National Pork Producers Council and the National Pork Board, and will present its final recommendations to the 2004 Pork Forum for consideration.
Other resolutions that the Pork Act Delegates approved include:
One that makes animal-well-being research a funding priority in the coming year.
That NPB work toward creating alliances with other organizations and industry partners to enhance consumer awareness about modern agricultural practices and promote a positive image of agriculture.
In a meeting prior to Pork Forum, NPB’s Board of Directors approved $150,000 to be distributed to APEX, a subsidiary of NPPC for use in addressing the Mexican dumping case presented against U.S. pork. “We had meetings with the Administration and they agreed that while no checkoff funds can be spent to influence policy in this country, we could do so to address trade issues in other countries,” said Dorminy.