USDA will conduct a Request for Referendum survey among eligible pork producers and hog, pig, pork and pork product importers to determine if they want a referendum on the National Pork Checkoff Program. The Request for Referendum is part of a lawsuit settlement entered into Feb. 28, 2001, with USDA and several state pork producers associations. The USDA Secretary will allow eligible producers, including contract growers, and importers to participate during a 4-week period, yet to be announced.

If 15 percent of the total number of eligible participants-- approximately 69,446, according U.S. government data — want a referendum, one will be held within a year of the survey results. The results of the referendum will be binding on the USDA Secretary, which means that should a majority of referendum participants vote to recall the program, the secretary would be required to order that the program end.

The National Pork Checkoff program manages and collects 40 cents per $100 of price on all market hog sales, breeding herd sales have a formula as well as other non-market-hog sectors, including hog and pork importers. The checkoff is used to fund pork advertising and promotion, consumer and producer information, industry research and producer education. The National Pork Board direct the contributions and programs, state pork producer associations also get a share of the funds based on a formula.

For the referendum survey, producers will be directed to participate through county Farm Service Agency offices. They must submit a completed form LS 54–1 and supporting documentation, including sales receipts, feed and veterinary bills, to the appropriate county FSA office as eligibility proof. Importers must submit completed form LS 54–1, Customs Form 7501 and any other supporting documentation that demonstrates hog or pork product importation. Participants will also have to certify this information on an official form