Humane Society of the United States: Court stops millions of dollars in additional government payouts to pork lobby

In February, the Humane Society of the United States won a case seeking to prohibit the government from unlawfully sending almost $30 million to the pork industry’s main lobbying group, the National Pork Producers Council, over the next decade. Photo by iStockphoto

July 20, 2018

The National Pork Producers Council, the main lobbying group for the pork industry, will not get its hands on two $3 million payouts from a mandatory checkoff fund that pork producers, including small family farmers, are forced to pay into each year. The Trump administration had aggressively tried to bypass an injunction – ordered by a court following a lawsuit brought by the HSUS – in order to send these funds to NPPC ahead of the fall elections.

In February, the Humane Society of the United States won a case seeking to prohibit the government from unlawfully sending almost $30 million to NPCC over the next decade. NPCC was diverting these funds —which are required by federal law to be used for non-political agricultural promotion—from their lawful purpose in order to fuel lobbying operations, including opposition against our work on behalf of animals.

Since the initial February ruling, the federal government has made two attempts to alter or evade the court’s injunction with the goal of sending millions of dollars of additional checkoff funds to NPPC. The HSUS defeated both of these tries, securing a clear and broad injunction against such payouts, and assuring that those funds would be lawfully used. They certainly won’t be available to NPCC in its anticipated campaign against the HSUS’s legislative priorities.

The government and NPPC have now appealed the court’s rulings, but our two post-judgment victories put an immediate block on any of these funds being distributed. The government has conceded that it will not make the post-judgment payments it attempted.

This is the latest skirmish in a 10-year battle that began when lawyers from our Animal Protection Litigation group obtained an injunction to prevent the government from improperly injecting $3 million of federal checkoff funds into a Prop 2 opposition campaign in California in 2008. Since then APL lawyers have successfully continued their fight to prevent abuses of these massively funded, but loosely scrutinized, federal checkoff programs.

With Prop 12 on the upcoming fall ballot in California, the Humane Society of the United States is determined to ensure that the federal checkoff programs—which generate hundreds of millions annually—are not used against the family farmers who have resisted the practices and philosophy of the industrial pork industry, and the animal protection efforts of the HSUS. We are also actively working on legislation that would bring much-needed reform to these federal programs.

Since our founding in 1954, we’ve always taken on the big fights, and this is one of the biggest out there. I’m very proud of my colleagues and our partners in this fight, as I hope you are. When you support the work of the HSUS, you’re investing in strategies and campaigns that are tough-minded, thoughtful and professional. We’ve stopped NPCC dead in its tracks, time and again, and we’ll continue to fight illicit and unprincipled schemes that misdirect public funds in the service of interest groups like Big Pork.