October 23, 2003



Court of Appeals Affirmed US' Pork Checkoff Program Invalidated


The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the United States' federal judge's ruling that the mandatory Pork Checkoff program is unconstitutional and should end. The court rejected USDA's argument that the Pork Checkoff is government speech, and found that the program "compels (hog farmers) to express a message with which they do not agree."

"Hog farmers voted it down, now two federal courts have decided the mandatory Pork Checkoff is unconstitutional and is entirely invalidated," said Hampton, Iowa hog farmer Mark McDowell, an Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (ICCI) member and Campaign for Family Farms spokesperson. "This is a big victory for family farmers and for democracy in America."

Ag Secretary Ann Veneman said she was disappointed in the news.

"I am disappointed that the US Court Appeals did not overturn the lower court's ruling. USDA regards such programs, when properly administered, as effective tools for market enhancement," she said in a statement.

"We are consulting with the US Department of Justice to determine the next steps regarding this matter."

Susan Stokes, legal director for Farmers' Legal Action Group (FLAG) and attorney for the Campaign for Family Farms, said, "This decision is vindication of the rights of independent hog farmers, who have been fighting this illegitimate and unconstitutional checkoff for more than five years."

Although the ruling invalidates the Pork Checkoff, ICCI and CFF say farmers have expressed concern that the National Pork Producers and the USDA will use the courts to delay the end of the program and allows continuation of collecting checkoff fees.

"It is time for the USDA to wave the white flag on Pork the Other White Meat," said David Moeller, staff attorney for FLAG, today.

Yesterday, Julie Quick, USDA spokeswoman told Reuters the department was consulting with the Justice Department on whether to ask the appeals court for a stay, while it considers its options. The administration could ask the entire appeals court to review the case or request the Supreme Court decide the case, she said.