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"They are collecting money from family farm hog sales every day
and using it to promote factory farms that are putting us out of business."

Family farmers pressure Pork Producers Council
to refund checkoff money

Council illegally used funds to monitor family farm organizations

by Rhonda Perry,
Columbia, Missouri

Proving that family farmers are a force to be reckoned with, the National Pork Producers Council refunded, on April 4, 1997, to the National Pork Board more than $50,000 in farmer check-off funds illegally used to monitor family farm organizations. Their actions follow intense pressure and protests from Farm Aid and U.S. family farmers represented by the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment.

Along with repaying the funds, NPPC fired Mongoven, Bisco and Duchin -- the consulting firm hired by the commodity group to monitor family farm organizations, including the National Farmers Union, and Campaign groups Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI), Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC), and the Land Stewardship Project. NPPC also agreed to submit to a full investigation of its spending activities by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General. Farm Aid executive director Carolyn Mugar said NPPC's actions demonstrate the power of grassroots family farm organizations.

"This battle was David versus Goliath, and David won," said Mugar. "NPPC should make note of this victory because family farm groups will not stand by while factory farm interests are promoted above family farms"

Iowa hog farmer - and Iowa CCI member - Larry Ginter said that while family farmers are pleased that NPPC has refunded the mis-used checkoff funds, the commodity group is still spending family farm checkoff money to promote factory farming.

"NPPC's illegal use of family farm funds is just the tip of the iceberg," said Ginter. "They are collecting money from family farm hog sales every day and using it to promote factory farms that are putting us out of business."

NPPC's continued promotion of factory farms over family hog farmers has led the Campaign to renew its call to Congress for an end to the mandatory checkoff system.

"In the past five years, 25 percent of pork producers have gone out of business, and NPPC has done nothing to help independent producers stay in business. Clearly, NPPC has not been acting in the interest of all pork producers. Ending the mandatory checkoff is the only way that we can be sure family farmers money is not being used to promote factory farming," said Paul Sturtz of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center.

Until a voluntary checkoff system is in place, family farm groups say the NPPC should be closely monitored by the USDA's Office of Inspector General (OIG). The OIG has indicated that it will go forward with an extensive investigation of NPPC activities.

"We want the Office of Inspector General to go over NPPC's records with a fine-toothed comb," said Illinois hog farmer and Illinois Stewardship Alliance member Luke Epley. "Any use of checkoff money by NPPC against independent hog farmers should be reported and addressed immediately."

"NPPC is on notice -- family farmers will not go away," said Rodney Skalbeck, a Minnesota farmer representing Land Stewardship Project. "We intend to monitor NPPC closely and take action whenever we see them acting against the interests of the American family farmer."

"Farm Aid supports the efforts of family farm groups who protect the interest of the American public against the threat of factory farms. If it wasn't for the actions of these farm groups, the public might never learn what's at stake when factory farms. If it weren't for the actions of these farm groups, the public might never learn what's at stake when farm promoters like NPPC put corporate interests ahead of families," said Mugar. "American food production needs to remain in the hands of family farmers."

Also see:

Pork Producers Council illegally uses funds to monitor family farm organizations
Summary of USDA's AMS Audit of NPPC
by Hugh Espy, des Moines, Iowa

Willie Nelson Lends Support to Family Farmers At National Ag Day Protest Against Factory Farming - U.S. Sen. Wellstone Calls for USDA Investigation Into NPPC Activities by Brian DeVore, Des Moines, Iowa

National Pork Producers Council uses checkoff to investigate farm groups
Farmers call for Congressional investigation
by Brian DeVore, Minneapolis, Minnesota

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