Hog farmers want an end to the mandatory pork checkoff
by Rhonda Perry
Rhonda Perry is the program director of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center.
More than 14,000 U. S. hog farmers have signed the petition to end the mandatory pork checkoff, calling for a referendum of hog farmers on the subject. In response to a letter sent by independent hog farmers to their counterparts across rural America this winter, hundreds of hog farmers are now sending in petitions daily.
The mandatory checkoff is a tax paid by producers on every hog sold in the United States. The funds then are distributed by the National Pork Board for pork promotion and research. The great majority of the money ends up in the bank accounts of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and its state chapters.
"The checkoff doesn't help me," said Minnesota hog farmer and member of the Land Stewardship Project Rodney Skalbeck. "It goes to help sell pork, but packers and retailers just keep that money, and the farmer gets less and less. It's clear that the pork checkoff is a failure."
Since the mandatory checkoff was instituted in 1986, more than $460,000,000 in checkoff dollars has been taken from hog farmers, according to the National Pork Board. During that same period, 230,000 hog farmers have gone out of business, and the farmer's share of the retail dollar has dropped from 46 cents to 12 cents in December of 1998
The petition drive was launched by the Campaign for Family Farms, a coalition of seven farm organizations working for an independent, family farm based hog industry. Stories reporting the depression era hog prices hog farmers face are running daily in magazines, newspapers, and on the radio and TV. That's why hog farmers across the country are getting signatures, and speaking out at hog farm meetings.
"Another thing the checkoff is used for is to pay the high salaries of the National Pork Producers Council," said Ovid Lyon hog farmer and member of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center. "But the NPPC is part of the problem. They have been spending our dollars to push more and more expansion by the biggest hog corporations, who have increased their sow herds nearly 50% over the past 2 years. So now we have massive corporate overproduction and the lowest prices in history. It's time to cut the cord and end the mandatory checkoff."
Hog farmer Larry Ginter from Iowa and member of the Iowa CCI agreed. "We're saying to other hog farmers -- shouldn't we be able to choose whether we put our hard-earned dollars into a checkoff program? Well, right now we don't have that choice, and that has caused all kinds of problems."
Campaign for Family Farms member groups include Community Farm Alliance, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, Indiana Campaign for Family Farms, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Land Stewardship Project, Missouri Rural Crisis Center and Wisconsin Rural Development Center.
Hog farmers who want to sign the petition should contact the Campaign for Family Farms, P.O. Box 3016 Des Moines, IA 50316 or call (515) 266-5213.
To put the mandatory checkoff to a vote 15 percent of U.S. hog farmers must sign the petition by April 1999.
Checkoff Funds Scandal:
|Published in In Motion Magazine February 7, 1999.
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