Back in August I reported on a lawsuit by The HSUS and a few other plaintiffs to stop a raid on federal dollars by the pork industry, and how a ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals could put an end to a $60 million revenue stream that is being misdirected to the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) for the purpose of funding its political activities.
I am delighted to report that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which approves the payments in question, has agreed to reconsider the whole scheme. And today, the federal district court here in Washington, D.C. has cleared the way for the USDA’s review, over the vehement objections of NPPC, the pork industry’s lobbying and trade association.
As part of a negotiated agreement with the plaintiffs – entered today – the USDA will conduct a new financial review of the valuation of the underlying trademark at issue: “The Other White Meat,” the tired slogan that was “sold” by NPPC to the National Pork Board, and serves as the ostensible justification for the Pork Board’s continued $3 million a year handout (over 20 years) to NPPC.
Within hours of the filing of the agreement with the USDA, NPPC strongly objected and, in a court filing, sought to stop the agency from conducting an independent financial review – understandable, given NPPC’s reliance on these federal funds to conduct lobbying campaigns against farm animal welfare and public health reforms.
Any honest review of this illegal use of pork check-off money by a private trade association will show that there’s some funny math going on in Washington, D.C. If the new valuation determines that the retired slogan isn’t worth the tens of millions of dollars that constitute the balance of payments on the contract, then the annual payments to NPPC will have to cease, or at least be drastically scaled back. Either way, it will be a good outcome for family farmers and for every social reform effort that NPPC works to thwart with the use of these public dollars.
While the new agreement does not end the lawsuit or its underlying claims, The HSUS, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, and the independent pig farmer who joined as plaintiffs in this lawsuit have already succeeded in bringing to light the pork industry’s abuses of this producer-funded promotion program. Although the court denied the lobbying group’s motion to intervene for now (and questioned NPPC’s delay of more than three years to file it), we can expect this fight to continue for some time.
The new contract review and trademark valuation will be completed in May. Until then, we continue to fight for animals, family farmers, and rural residents, as we seek to end abuse of these government programs and their sweetheart deals with Big Pork.