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Farm Group Urges “No” Vote on Pork Checkoff

DENVER>> It is time for the nation’s pork producers to pull the plug on the mandatory checkoff fees assessed each time they sell a pig, according to the board of directors for the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU).

Meeting here recently, the RMFU board unanimously recommended that pork producers voting in the upcoming federal referendum oppose continuing the mandatory checkoff. The referendum was authorized after more than 19,000 pork producers signed petitions last year asking Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman to hold a vote on continuing the mandatory checkoff. In-person voting will occur September 19-21 at USDA Farm Service Agency offices. Absentee ballots are available now through September 18.

The pork checkoff was initiated in 1986 to fund promotion, marketing and research programs. Under the checkoff, producers are required to pay 45 cents into the promotion fund for every $100 worth of pigs and hogs they sell. The checkoff averages about 50 cents per hog.

Meeting in Denver in late July, the Farmers Union board of directors said the pork checkoff funds have failed to promote the economic interests of the farmers forced to pay the fees. The Farmers Union board noted that the number of American pork producers has plummeted by more than 60 percent since inception of the checkoff.

“The checkoff paid by individual producers has funded promotion and research programs that have ultimately benefited the processing corporations,” said Charles Klaseen, a western Colorado livestock producer who serves as the chair of the RMFU board of directors. “Mandatory checkoff programs must be accountable to the producers who pay the bill.”

John Long, a Weld County hog farmer, noted that pork producers received an average of 44 cents of every dollar consumers spent on pork in 1986. Last year, the producers’ share of the consumer pork dollar had shrunk to 25 cents. “Since 1986, I’ve paid an estimated $100,000 in checkoff fees. Yet I’m receiving less of the money that consumers spend on pork than ever before. That is a terrible return on a major investment.” He noted that the original checkoff was promoted to producers under the slogan of Nickels for Profit. “So far the producers have paid all of the nickels, and the processors and retailers have reaped the profits,” Long said. “Pork producers need to ask themselves whether they are better off today than they were in 1986.”