Cut Back Room Deal with NPPC to Keep Pork Checkoff in Place
In a backroom deal announced today, the USDA agreed not to terminate the mandatory pork checkoff. USDAs agreement, made with the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), is meant to overturn the democratic vote of hog farmers who voted to end the pork tax 53% to 47% in a nationwide referendum held five months ago. In Missouri, 64% of hog farmers that voted in the referendum favored termination of the checkoff.
The USDA/NPPC deal was taking place at the same time that Secretary Venemans office was refusing to meet with hog farmer members of the Campaign for Family Farms. The deal was made as part of a settlement to NPPCs lawsuit against USDA in U. S. District Court in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Iowa hog farmer and Iowa CCI Wayne Demmer said, "This is America. Our nation was formed because we were taxed while being denied democracy. Democracy is our most basic right."
Rhonda Perry, a Missouri hog farmer and member of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, has been active in the three year effort to end the mandatory pork checkoff. "NPPC and USDA have declared war against independent family farmers and democracy. Well sue the USDA to protect our vote and well work with the thousands of hog farmers who voted in the referendum to ensure the checkoff is ended."
Paul Sobosinski, a Minnesota hog farmer and spokesperson for the Campaign for Family Farms, stated that this deal was business as usual for the NPPC and the USDA. "This is a perfect example of why independent hog farmers voted to end the checkoff. The NPPC spends their time and our money to thwart democracy."
The Campaign for Family Farms will oppose the NPPCs and USDAs settlement agreement in U. S. District Court in Grand Rapids Michigan. The Campaign contends that Venemans failure to terminate the pork checkoff is an arbitrary and capricious administrative action. It was absolutely clear throughout the referendum process that USDA would terminate the checkoff program upon a majority vote in favor of such termination.
The final referendum rules provided for termination of the program upon majority vote of those producers and importers casting ballots in the referendum. Thousands of farmers cast their ballots in this referendum with the understanding that the program would end upon a majority vote in favor of termination. Venemans refusal to complete the termination not only violates the basic principles of democracy, it also violates the referendum rules.
Sam Latchford is a Missouri Rural Crisis Center member and hog farmer from Shelby County. George Bush got elected by campaigning on tax cuts, based on the philosophy that each individual, not some distant bureaucracy, should make decisions on how individuals hard-earned dollars are spent. Yet USDAs first major action under Bush was to keep a tax in place that had been voted down by hog farmers. If this is any example of how Bush plans to cut taxes and help family farmers, then rural America is in serious trouble.
An open letter to Congress People:
March 1, 2001
Dear Senator or Member of Congress:
As you know, hog farmers from all over the country are outraged by Secretary of Agriculture Venemans announcement yesterday that the USDA was going to continue the mandatory pork checkoff, despite a vote among Americas hog farmers that favored termination of the checkoff.
We are greatly concerned about Secretary Venemans decision, both for the legal and political implications of her undemocratic decision. Hog farmers voted 53% to 47% in favor of ending the checkoff, with the referendum rules clearly stating that the program would be terminated upon a majority vote in favor of termination. Both the voting rules and the principles of democracy compel the USDA to abide by the producers vote and end the checkoff.
President Bush campaigned on the philosophy that each individual, not some distant bureaucracy, should make decisions on how their hard-earned dollars are spent. The mandatory pork checkoff is a failed and unpopular tax that was voted down in a national referendum.
Yet USDAs first major decision under this Administration was to keep a tax in place that does not have the support of the hog farmers that are forced to pay it. Instead, USDA and NPPC decided that they would determine the best possible use for hog farmers money. If this is any example of how President Bush plans to cut taxes and help family farmers, then rural America is in serious trouble.
This issue is of the utmost urgency. We are asking you to send a letter to President Bush and Secretary Veneman calling on them to abide by the hog farmers vote and terminate the mandatory pork checkoff program immediately. We are also urging you to publicly express the concern of hog farmers in your district for the blatant disregard of the democratic process.
Thank you for your consideration.
Campaign for Family Farms
|Published in In Motion Magazine, March 5, 2001
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