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Pressure Builds on Bush Administration
Over Pork Checkoff Decision

Congressional Leaders Tell USDA:
"Honor the Vote, End the Checkoff"

Campaign for Family Farms
Columbia, Missouri

Date: June 14, 2001

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee, June 15, passed an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations bill that would restrict USDA from using any appropriated funds for the purpose of maintaining or implementing the mandatory pork checkoff. Authored by U. S. Representative Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, the amendment now goes to the House floor.

In a letter to House colleagues about the amendment, Representative Kaptur stated "No matter what you call the checkoff - a fee, an assessment, or a tax - it was mandatory, hog farmers had no choice but to pay it, and they voted in a democratic election conducted by the U.S. government to get rid of it. Everybody knew the stakes: the future of the checkoff program."

The Appropriations Committee action follows on the heels of a front-page New York Times story reporting on sharp and increasing criticism of the Bush Administration and Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman from hog farmers. Farmer criticism focuses on Veneman's backroom deal with the National Pork Producers Council to keep the pork tax alive and ignore the vote.

Meanwhile, U.S. Representatives Lane Evans of Illinois and James Oberstar of Minnesota have authored a letter to Secretary Veneman calling on her to reverse her decision to overturn a democratic referendum and instead honor the vote and terminate the mandatory pork checkoff program. Other members of Congress are expected to sign onto the letter as resistance to Secretary Veneman's decision continues to mount.

"We are not surprised that there are members of Congress who are willing to stand up for democracy and independent producers," said Minnesota hog farmer Paul Sobocinski, a member of the Land Stewardship Project and a spokesperson for the Campaign for Family Farms. "In fact, in a democracy, we should expect that every member of Congress would . This wasn't some poll or survey - it was a vote, and in America, votes count."

Missouri hog farmer Rhonda Perry, a member of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center and a spokesperson for the Campaign for Family Farms, summed it up. "Here's the main thing: Opposition to this anti-democratic action of the Bush Administration - forcing hog farmers to keep paying the pork tax after we voted it down by a clear majority - continues to grow. They ought to just recognize that Secretary Veneman made a bad mistake, admit they are wrong, and abide by our vote."

The Campaign for Family Farms organized the campaign to end the mandatory pork checkoff. Member groups of the Campaign include the Land Stewardship Project, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, and the Missouri Rural Crisis Center.

Published in In Motion Magazine, June 18, 2001

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