Hog Farmers About To Take On Government Board

April 26, 1999

A coalition of small hog farmers is gearing up to do battle with the National Pork Producers Council and the quasi-governmental National Pork Board. Faced with what it claims are the lowest hog prices in history, it is livid at having to pay out so-called "checkoff fees" to the organizations.

  • The coalition, called the Campaign for Family Farms, charges that the two organizations use their fees to push for expansion of the biggest hog corporations at the expense of small pork producers.
  • The farmers claim they have enough signatures on a petition to force a national referendum aimed at ending the fees -- which they claim has cost them $480 million over the past 12 years.
  • The checkoff program requires pork producers to pay 45 cents for every $100 of animal value.
  • Federal agriculture officials say hog farmers contribute about $60 million a year -- which initially goes to the National Pork Board, and then is contracted out to the NPPC for research, advertising and promotion services.

All told, 12 congressionally-mandated agricultural promotion programs collect about $659 million a year in obligatory payments from farmers and cattlemen -- with the bulk of it going to advertising agencies for promotions.

In recent years, seven such marketing programs have been rejected in anti-checkoff referendums because farmers believed they were not getting their money's worth.

Since the hog checkoff became mandatory in 1986, hog prices have fallen from $49 per hundredweight to $8 per hundredweight, campaign officials report. They question what kind of promotion that is.

Source: William Claiborne, "Hog Farmers Target Pork Promotion Fees," Washington Post, April 16, 1999.

 

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