The Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) filed a complaint with USDA’s Office of the Inspector General asking them to investigate the National Pork Board’s (NPB) potential use of federal checkoff money to support the National Pork Producer Council’s (NPPC) lobbying efforts. The NPB collects money from pork producers via the pork checkoff program. The pork checkoff program, created by the Pork Act, requires pork producers to pay into a fund that the NPB oversees. The NPB is prohibited by federal law from using the money collected for legislative purposes.
The issue in the complaint is the NPB’s involvement with the NPPC’s Pork Alliance program, which is “explicitly and exclusively dedicated to lobbying and other legislative efforts,” according to the complaint. The complaint describes the Alliance program as a “voluntary scheme in which interested organizations from allied industries can pay dues to the NPPC in support of its legislative activities.” The NPB, the complaint notes, is listed as an NPPC “Alliance Partner,” and describes an Alliance partner as the “highest level of Pork Alliance membership, incurring annual dues of $20,000.”
The HSUS obtained records of annual purchase orders from the NPB to sponsor and participate in NPPC Alliance program activities. The complaint concludes that “there is no part of the Pork Alliance program in which the National Pork Board may legally participate.”
“The National Pork Producers Council lobbies for large factory farms at the expense of family farms and animal welfare and appears to be using federal checkoff dollars to advance its extreme agenda,” said Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at the HSUS. “If checkoff funds have been illegally diverted to lobbying, USDA should take swift action to ensure America’s pig farmers are not footing the bill for the pork industry’s high-priced lobbyists.”
The HSUS filed a lawsuit in September in federal district court charging the NPB with striking an “unlawful backroom deal” with the NPPC to buy the slogan, “Pork: The Other White Meat.”
The NPCC defends the use of gestation crates to confine pregnant pigs. Lately there has been a move away from the use of gestation crates by major companies, including fast food giants such as McDonald’s, Burger King, and Sonic. Even large pork producers like Smithfield and Hormel have pledged to stop using gestation crates by 2017. Cargill is 50 percent gestation-crate free.
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