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Hog Farmers End Mandatory Pork Checkoff:
Independent producers vote down pork tax

Campaign for Family Farms prepares for next corporate target

Campaign for Family Farms
Washington, D.C.

Rhonda Perry feeding hogs on her family farm near Armstrong, Missouri.
Rhonda Perry feeding hogs on her family farm near Armstrong, Missouri. Photo by Nic Paget-Clarke.
Hog farmer members of the Campaign for Family Farms (CFF), the coalition of state based farm groups who led the three and a half year effort to end the mandatory pork checkoff, are celebrating their huge victory over the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). Today Secretary of Agriculture Glickman announced that hog producers voted to end the mandatory pork checkoff.

Hog farmers had plenty to celebrate as they beat the NPPC, which spent upwards of $4 million dollars in an attempt to win the referendum. There were a total of 30,347 votes cast in the referendum. Of those votes, 15,951 (53%) were cast by producers who voted to end the mandatory pork checkoff while only 14,396 producers (47%) voted to continue the tax.

Hog producers say they voted to end the mandatory pork checkoff, a tax on every hog sold in the U.S. that generates roughly a million dollars a week for the NPPC, because it has been used to promote the interests of factory farms and corporate meatpackers and hasn’t helped independent producers increase their bottom line. Over the course of the three year campaign to end the checkoff, it has grown to signify more than ending an unsuccessful program.

“This referendum is about much more than ending an unfair tax. It’s about farmers organizing and fighting back against corporate power and money. With the checkoff gone, the National Pork Producers Council won’t be able to carry water for the agribusiness corporations while claiming to represent America’s hog farmers” said Minnesota hog farmer Jim Joens, a member of the Land Stewardship Project and spokesperson for CFF.

“Family farmers are fighting back against the commodity groups that have sold them out and the corporate agriculture system that is trying to force them off their farms. We took down the NPPC and we’re going after their corporate allies next.”  Said Dubuque Iowa hog farmer Dale Leslein, a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and a spokesperson for CFF.

Illinois hog farmer Phil Wright, a member of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance and CFF spokesperson added, “This is a hard fought victory won by American hog farmers. Throughout this campaign it was hog farmers who did the heavy lifting make sure the referendum was held and it was hog farmers who voted to end the National Pork Producer Council’s million dollar a week gravy train.”

The victory for independent producers and the Campaign for Family Farms culminates a campaign that started in 1998 with a national petition drive of hog farmers. The Campaign for Family Farms submitted 19,043 signatures from hog farmers across the country to USDA in May, 1999, forcing a referendum to end the mandatory pork checkoff. A year and three months later, hog farmers across the country voted at their county Farm Service Agency offices. The ballots were counted on November 29, 2000, and the results were not released until today.

“For years the NPPC has been using our money to represent the interests of corporate factory farms and meatpackers. We’re sick and tired losing money hand over fist due to consolidation in the pork industry and the ill-conceived policies of the NPPC. It’s been 16 weeks since we voted and that means we’ve had to fork over another $16 million. There is no justifiable reason to collect this tax one day longer. We demand that USDA stop the collection of checkoff payments immediately.” said Missouri hog farmer Rhonda Perry, a member of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center and spokesperson for the Campaign for Family Farms.”

Published in In Motion Magazine, January 15, 2001