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Hog farmers criticize NPPC president for
lawsuit threat on checkoff vote

Campaign for Family Farms
Columbia, Missouri

Leaders of the Campaign for Family Farms today blasted National Pork Producers Council president John McNutt for threatening to file a lawsuit to stop the U.S. Department of Agriculture from conducting the upcoming referendum on the mandatory pork checkoff.

USDA Secretary Dan Glickman announced on Monday that his agency will conduct a national referendum for hog farmers on the pork tax in response to petition signatures turned in last year. The Campaign for Family Farms submitted signatures from over 19,000 U.S. hog farmers on a petition last May calling for a vote to end the mandatory pork checkoff. Federal law required just under 15,000 signatures for a vote.

In an interview with the Des Moines Register on Monday, McNutt said that his group may go to court in an attempt to block the vote. NPPC officials will be meeting this week-end in Kansas City to decide their strategy.

"We've got a lot of support out here among hog farmers for ending the mandatory checkoff, and NPPC knows it. That's why they're doing everything they can to derail the democratic process and block the vote," said Mark McDowell, an Iowa hog farmer and member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

"This vote is going to happen – there's no doubt about it, and NPPC better get used to that idea. Hog farmers earned the vote, we deserve the vote, and now Glickman has said we're going to get the vote. We're focusing all of our efforts now on winning the vote and ending the mandatory pork checkoff," said Rhonda Perry, a Missouri hog farmer and member of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center.

Campaign leaders also criticized McNutt for making misleading statements about the checkoff petition and how the vote will be paid for. In a radio interview that aired on March 1 on the Linder Farm Network in Minnesota, McNutt claimed that he had seen the list of petition signers. A federal judge has barred USDA from releasing that information, and USDA has confirmed to the Campaign for Family Farms that they have released the names to no one.

McNutt also claimed during a February 29 broadcast on another network that the referendum will be paid for with checkoff dollars. USDA officials working on the checkoff referendum say no part of the vote will be paid for with checkoff dollars, and that the NPPC was informed of that fact.

"McNutt and the NPPC are desperate. They’re grasping for straws, and not getting the facts straight," said Dave Serfling, a Minnesota hog farmer and member of the Land Stewardship Project. "They must really be scared of the fact that us hog farmers finally have the chance to vote."

The pork checkoff is a mandatory fee paid by hog farmers on every hog sold in the U.S. It generates $45-$55 million annually for the National Pork Board and NPPC. Since it was established in 1986, the pork tax has generated over half a billion dollars, yet hog prices have hit historic lows and hog farmers' share of the retail dollar has plummeted from 46 cents to its present rate of less than 20 cents. Many farmers also say the checkoff has been used to promote factory farms and the corporate takeover of the hog industry.

The Campaign for Family Farms is a coalition of seven farm and rural groups that includes Iowa CCI, Missouri Rural Crisis Center, Land Stewardship Project, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, Wisconsin Rural Development Center, Indiana Campaign for Family Farms, and Community Farm Alliance.

Published in In Motion Magazine - March 5, 2000

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