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DENVER>>The Rocky Mountain Farmers Union today filed a formal protest with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) concerning the authorization of a series of advertisements intended to influence the outcome of an upcoming referendum on the pork checkoff.
The protest was prompted by the Colorado Pork Producers Council’s plan to spend $12,000 in August and September on a series of ads promoting the role that checkoff funds have played in increasing pork utilization in the foodservice industry. The ads are scheduled to run on rural radio stations in regions where the majority of Colorado’s pork producers reside.
In a letter filed today with the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, RMFU President Dave Carter charged that the ads are being financed through the mandatory producer assessment, “clearly intended to influence the outcome of the pork referendum in September.” Pork producers are scheduled to vote Sept. 19-21 over continuation of the mandatory fees they are required to pay on each hog they sell. Under legislation implemented in 1986, pork producers are required to pay 45 cents into the promotion fund for every $100 worth of pigs and hogs they sell.
The mandatory funds are legally required to be used for market research and promotion. Many pork producers, however, have been concerned that the money they are required to pay has done little to benefit their economic interest. USDA Secretary Dan Glickman scheduled the upcoming referendum after receiving petitions signed by more than 19,000 pork producers.
Federal law prohibits pork checkoff funds being used to influence legislation. The Internal Revenue code includes referendums as a classification of influencing legislation.
“The timing and targeting of these ads clearly illustrates their political purposes,” Carter said. Independent pork producers are rightfully frustrated that the tax they are required to pay under the checkoff end up being used in a campaign to make sure that they have to keep paying the tax.”
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