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Mandatory pork checkoff voted down

DENVER>>The vote of the nation’s pork producers to end their mandatory assessment fee “sends a cannonball across the deck” of commodity checkoff programs regarding their use of the hard-earned-dollars of family farmers and ranchers, according to Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) President Dave Carter.

Carter’s comments came after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that pork producers participating in a recent national referendum had voted by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent to end the mandatory assessment that was implemented in 1986. The assessment – which averaged about 50 cents per hog – was earmarked for promotion, marketing and research.

Many hog farmers expressed frustration that the programs funded by the checkoff were actually contributing to the demise of the independent pork producers. Responding to a petition filed by more than 19,000 producers last year, the USDA conducted the referendum in September. The results of that referendum were announced January 11. Supporters of the checkoff claimed the promotion programs had increased pork consumption over the past 15 years. “They just didn’t understand that it’s income, not volume that pays the bills for independent producers. And the pork promotion programs failed miserably to boost the incomes of America’s pork producers,” Carter said.

He noted that the number of pork producers in Colorado had plummeted from a level of 2,700 in 1986 to a level of fewer than 500 today. Meanwhile, the output of pork in the state has skyrocketed.

“Producers are willing to pay to promote their products to consumers. But they want to make sure that the promotion, research and marketing programs bring benefits back to the people who are paying the assessment,” Carter said.