In its latest attack on pork industry practices, The Humane Society of the United States and a single pork producer filed suit against Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in an attempt to cut off a major source of funding for the National Pork Producers Council.
The NPPC has stood firm in its support of a variety of animal husbandry practices, including the use of sow gestation stalls. HSUS opposes this practice and has greatly intensified its campaign against their use over the past year.
In the lawsuit, HSUS takes issue with the intellectual property payments the National Pork Board makes each year to the NPPC for the rights to “Pork, The Other White Meat” and related intellectual property valued at $60 million.
According to the lawsuit, the $3 million per year the NPB pays NPPC for those rights is illegal, because those funds are used for NPPC lobbying efforts. The lawsuit estimated those payments account for as much as 32 percent of NPPC’s annual budget revenue.
The suit claims the payments violate provisions of the Pork Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act of 1985 and the USDA guidelines for checkoff program operations and “allow the Board and the NPPC to evade federal restrictions against the use of pork checkoff dollars for the purposes of influencing legislation and government policy.”
HSUS claims it has the right to bring suit on its own behalf because, “NPPC has consistently expended significant funds to fight HSUS policy and legislative reforms related to humane practices in the care of farm animals.”
Adair County, Iowa, pork producer Harvey Dillenburg is also names as a plaintiff. Dillenburg pays into the pork checkoff fund and the lawsuit claims misused checkoff funds could be used for other legitimate programs in support of the pork industry.
The suit names Vilsack as the defendant because as Secretary of Agriculture he is responsible for implementing the Pork Act, including approving the Pork Board’s annual budget and expenditures, and enforcing the prohibition against unreasonable checkoff funds expenditures.
The NPPC was working on a statement responding to the suit at press time.
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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