INDIANAPOLIS – In a historic move, 145 Pork Checkoff delegates representing 43 states and importers unanimously joined the North Carolina Pork Council in support of an advisement introduced at the National Pork Board delegate assembly. During the advisement’s introduction and discussion, it was particularly noteworthy that every state represented in the delegate body added their name as co-sponsors to the advisement. The National Pork Industry Forum was convened in Indianapolis March 3-5.
The North Carolina Pork Council delegation submitted the advisement at Pork Forum to urge U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to defend the U.S. pork industry by upholding a purchase agreement between the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). The 2006 purchase contract allows the National Pork Board to purchase the Pork. The Other White Meat® marketing positon from NPPC. The Pork Checkoff pays NPPC $3 million each year until the payment schedule is fulfilled in 2026. The full North Carolina advisement, introduced as 2016 Advisement – Industry Relations 1, reads:
Petition of Secretary Vilsack to preserve and defend National Pork Board statutory authority and independence
Whereas the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) has filed a federal lawsuit against USDA contesting contractual agreements between the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council; and, Whereas the outcome sought by HSUS would damage the ability of the National Pork Board to exercise its judgment in marketing free from judicial and third-party review; therefore, be it resolved that the delegates of the National Pork Board, appointed by the U. S. Secretary of Agriculture, do petition him to mount a strong and vigorous defense of the Department’s past approval of National Pork Board contracts, employing all possible legal tactics to preserve the authority and independence of the National Pork Board to negotiate and enter into contracts related to its statutory responsibilities under the Pork Act and Order.
In 2013, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) filed a lawsuit against USDA objecting to their approval of a contract between National Pork Board (NPB) and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) for the purchase of the trademark “Pork. The Other White Meat” by NPB, which had been approved by USDA in 2006. The contract valued the trade mark at $34.5 million based on its replacement value and was amortized over 20 years at a negotiated interest rate, resulting in 20 years of annual payments from NPB to NPPC of $3 million.
The case was originally dismissed for lack of standing, but was reinstated in 2015 by an appeals court. Subsequently, USDA entered into settlement discussions with HSUS. While USDA has not shared the terms of settlement being discussed with NPB, USDA has withheld approval of the annual payment to NPPC in 2016. Further, USDA has directed NPB to contract for another valuation of the trademark and expects to make a determination regarding approval of the 2016 payment by the middle of June.
The fact that USDA is discussing settlement with HSUS and the fact that they have ordered a re-evaluation of the value of the trademark causes concern that USDA is not vigorously defending the Secretary’s previous decision to approve the sales contract and that they are subjecting the contract and marketing decisions to the whims of litigants and courts.