Today, a federal district court in Washington issued a ruling in a lawsuit filed by the Humane Society of the United States halting the transfer of millions of dollars from a federal commodity promotion program that was being diverted to finance lobbying activities by the pork industry. The court ruled that the National Pork Board must cease further payments to the National Pork Producers Council, the industry’s largest lobbying group. Those payments had been made under a contract for purchase of the now-retired “Pork: The Other White Meat” trademarks.
Matthew Penzer, special counsel in the HSUS Animal Protection Litigation department, was an attorney on the case and issued the following statement:
“Today’s ruling halts an abusive misuse of millions of dollars of federal funds that was harmful to animals and responsible family farmers alike. We hope this case signals a future of greater scrutiny and accountable operation of these massively funded government programs.”
On USDA’s recent decision to continue annual multi-million dollar payouts, the court noted that “the trademarks that include The Other White Meat slogan have been declared to be obsolete, and have been retired from active use. So their value is minimal, or at best, undetermined.” And the court held that the agency’s decision “is arbitrary, capricious, and not supported by the record, and the agency is enjoined from approving any future payments.”
- The lawsuit was filed by the HSUS, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Harvey Dillenburg, an independent pig farmer. The suit challenged a “sweetheart deal” to funnel $60 million dollars of producer funds slated for generic commodity promotion through the federally controlled National Pork Board to instead fuel the operations of large pork corporation’s primary political lobbying organization.
- There are important checkoff reform bills pending in Congress [S. 741/H.R. 1753 the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act led by U.S. Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Reps. Dave Brat (R-VA) and Dina Titus (D-NV).]. These reforms are crucial to level the playing field for family farmers, and to ensure policy efforts to protect farm animal welfare, environmental health and rural community values are given fair consideration.