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Veneman admits ignorance
on pork tax decision

Campaign for Family Farms
Des Moines, Iowa

Date: May 16, 2001

At a Monday morning press conference, Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman admitted she knew nothing about two key government reports when she ordered the continuation of the pork tax program, even though hog farmers voted to end it.

Last fall, over 30,000 hog farmers voted 53% to 47% in a nationwide referendum to end the mandatory pork tax which is assessed against hog farmers on each hog they sell.

During the USDA sponsored press conference, Veneman said she was unfamiliar with the reports issued by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) and the USDA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).

In September 2000, the GAO investigation concluded that former Ag Secretary Dan Glickman acted within his statutory authority when he held a referendum to terminate the pork tax.

In a January 10, 2001 the OIG investigated claims into voting irregularities and concluded, “after our review of the information and interviews with [government] staff, we concluded that there were controls in place governing the conduct of the referendum...we found no evidence that the controls did not work as intended. Thus we have no basis for further inquiry.”

This week the Campaign for Family Farms filed a federal lawsuit against Secretary Veneman challenging her decision which overturned the democratic referendum and required hog farmers to continue paying the failed and unpopular tax. The lawsuit asks the court to order USDA to end the pork checkoff and prohibit the collection of the $54 million a year pork tax.

“We’re appalled Veneman made such a monumental decision without even looking at these 2 reports. It smacks of incompetence,” said MRCC member and Howard County hog farmer, Rhonda Perry. “Veneman claims that her decision was based on legal concerns and ‘insurmountable flaws’ surrounding the vote -- yet these issues were thoroughly addressed and dispelled by the two government reports.”

The Campaign for Family Farms is the multi-state coalition that has led the fight to end the mandatory pork tax over the last 3 years. Member groups of the Campaign for Family Farms are: Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Missouri Rural Crisis Center, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, and Land Stewardship Project (Minnesota).

Hog farmers voted down the pork tax because it is undemocratic, hasn’t benefited them economically, and is being used to promote factory farms and corporate concentration in agriculture.

Published in In Motion Magazine, May 27, 2001

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