The Supreme Court of the United States has set aside a lower court ruling declaring the Pork Checkoff unconstitutional and returned the case to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati with instructions to reconsider the case in light of its ruling last week in a similar case involving the beef checkoff.
The Supreme Court last week, in a 6-3 vote, declared in Johanns v. Livestock Marketing Association that the Beef Promotion Act does not violate the First Amendment. In the majority opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court ruled the that speech produced by the Cattlemanâ€™s Beef Board pursuant to the Beef Promotion Act is government speech immune from First Amendment challenge.
A similar challenge to the Pork Checkoff had been on hold at the Supreme Court, awaiting determination of the beef checkoff case. The Court on May 31granted a writ of certiorari in Johanns v. Campaign for Family Farms and then returned the case to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals for further consideration in light of the beef checkoff ruling.
"We believe this is very good news for the majority of pork producers who support the work being done on their behalf through the Pork Checkoff," says Dave Culbertson, a pork producer from Geneseo, Ill., and president of the National Pork Board, which collects the checkoff and oversees administration of the demand-building, research and education programs supported by the checkoff.
"Opponents of the checkoff have unfairly tried to make this a case of big producers against small producers," Culbertson says. "The record will show that checkoff programs are at work on behalf of producers of all sizes and production styles. All producers benefit from increased demand, from the value added through export of U.S. pork to Asia, Mexico and elsewhere and through the scientific advances in animal health and food safety supported in part by checkoff-funded research."
Culbertson says the Courtâ€™s decision is a major step toward the final resolution of what has been a lengthy legal process. "We look forward to the conclusion of this case so all producers can come together to move the industry forward and to focus precious industry resources on improving the marketplace for pork," Culbertson says.
National Pork Board has responsibility for Checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. Through the Pork Checkoff, pork producers are assessed $0.40 for each $100 value of hogs sold. Pork importers also invest a comparable amount. The Pork Checkoff funds national and state programs in advertising, consumer information, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, technology, swine health and pork safety.