See our Photo of the Week (and archive of more) ... and the echo follows

Opinion Advertize Permission
To be notified of new articles Survey Store About Us
Groups start national petition drive
to end mandatory pork checkoff

Hog farmers question benefit of current system

The Campaign for Family Farms
Des Moines, Iowa

Beginning today (April 29, 1998), hog farmers nationwide will choose whether to eliminate the mandatory pork checkoff tax which forces them to pay into a marketing program that has not served their interests.

The Campaign for Family Farms, a coalition of farm and rural groups in 10 states, made this announcement as it kicked-off a national petition drive to end the mandatory pork checkoff. The effort began as hog farmers from 5 states signed petitions and urged other hog farners to vote against the mandatory checkoff.

The mandatory pork checkoff program was started in 1986 and collects a portion of the market price when each hog is sold. A farmer who markets 1,000 hogs annually pays about $450 into the checkoff fund (assuming 250 lb. hogs at $.40/lb). Money collected from this program was originally intended to benefit hog farmers through promotional efforts.

But, hog farmers aren't receiving better prices since the checkoff became mandatory. In fact, prices have tended to be lower.

In the year the checkoff became mandatory, the average price for hogs received by farmers was $49.30 per hundred weight. In the ten years following 1986, the average yearly price was lower than $49.30 in seven out of ten years.

Larry Ginter, a hog farmer and member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, said that the program must be made voluntary to be accountable to producers. "Many farmers feel that they should be able to decide for themselves whether to contribute to the program. That would be the most democratic and accountable method of running a checkoff program," Ginter said.

Rhonda Perry, a hog farmer and member of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, said that over $417 million in checkoff dollars has been spent since the program became mandatory -- with little economic benefit for farmers. "The 'Other White Meat' Campaign has helped everybody but the independent producer. It's helped Madison Avenue advertisers, packers, and investors. But farmers are getting $35 hogs."

Monica Kahout, a Minnesota hog farmer and member of the Land Stewardship Project, agreed. "The mandatory pork checkoff hasn't worked for the family farmer," said Kahout, noting that, since 1986, the U.S. has lost 207,400 hog farmers -- over 60% of all producers.

Various national and state organizations have endorsed the petition drive, including Farm Aid, the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, the National Family Farm Coalition, Family Farm Defenders, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Dakota Rural Action, the Iowa chapter of the National Farmers Organization, , Nebraska Farmers Union, Minnesota Project, Northern Plains Resource Council, Citizens Action Coalition (IN), the Catholic Rural Life Offices of the Dubuque (IA.) Archdiocese and Sioux City (IA.) Diocese, Iowa Family Farm Coalition, and the Churches' Center for Land and People.

Hog farmers who want to sign the petition to end the mandatory pork checkoff can write the Campaign for Family Farms at P.O. Box 3016 Des Moines, Iowa 50316, or call 515/266-5213 or 573/449-1336.

The Campaign for Family Farms is composed of Illinois Stewardship Alliance, the Indiana Campaign for Family Farms, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Community Farm Alliance of Kentucky, Land Loss Prevention Project of North Carolina, Land Stewardship Project of Minnesota, Missouri Rural Crisis Center, and Wisconsin Rural Development Center. For more information, call Larry Ginter at 515/266-5213, Monica Kahout at 320/523-1516, Rhonda Perry at 573/449-1336 or Luke Epley at 217/562-4311.

Published in In Motion Magazine, May 13, 1998