Pork Promotion is Hogwash, Say Hog Farmers

November 13, 2002

Farmers who raise pigs deeply resent a tax they must pay to support a national pork marketing program sponsored by the Department of Agriculture. Last month, a Federal District Court judge sided with the farmers.

  • Under the terms of the 1985 Pork Act, those who raise pigs are obliged to hand over 40 cents out of every $100 worth of sales to the department's marketing program -- which is administered by the National Pork Producers Council.
  • The "contributions" coerced from farmers fund the "Pork: the Other White Meat" promotion to the tune of $50 million a year.
  • Small farmers complain that the advertising campaign is geared to support only the biggest players in the business -- and that it misrepresents pork, which is pink, not white.
  • When the Department of Agriculture held a referendum on the program two years ago, hog farmers voted to do away with it -- even though the council spent $4 million to defeat the referendum.

Critics say the tax no longer makes sense, thanks to seismic shifts in the industry. When the act was passed, 52 million pigs were raised annually on 388,000 farms. Last year, nearly 60 million pigs were raised on 82,000 farms, making the small family farmer the exception.

No matter, the Secretary of Agriculture threw out the referendum's results.

So last month's judicial decision that the farmers' forced contributions are unconstitutional has raised new hopes among them that piggies will once again be able to go to market unaided by the $50 million promotion.

Source: Editorial, "The Other Political Pork," New York Times, November 10, 2002.  

 

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