USDA mulls next steps in HSUS suit over pork checkoff

USDA mulls next steps in HSUS suit over pork checkoff

By Lisa M. Keefe on 8/18/2015

USDA is weighing at its options now that a federal appeals court has cleard the way for a lawsuit filed in 2012 by an Iowa hog farmer, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement can move forward.

The District Court for the District of Columbia had ruled that the legal challenge against USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s annual support of the pork checkoff’s "Pork: The Other White Meat" campaign from the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) crossed the line in terms of potential legislative influence did not have legal standing. The District of Columbia Court of Appleals yesterday disagreed, allowing the case to move forward.

A USDA spokesman told Meatingplace in an emailed statement that “the Court of Appeals’ decision was based on a procedural issue, and does not address the basic issue in the case that the assessments and expenditures by the National Pork Board were proper. USDA and [the Department
of Justice] will be reviewing the court’s decision to determine how to proceed in defending the case. Because the case is in active litigation, we do not want to comment on the substance of the issues, but those will be laid out in our pleadings in the litigation.”

Additionally, the NPPC said in an email response to a request for comment by Meatingplace that “[f]rom our perspective this is just one more step in a very lengthy legal process. … Additionally, the facts of the case have not yet been litigated.”

HSUS officials, meanwhile, saw the decision as a threat to "choke off a $60-million revenue stream that should never have been funnelled to fund the political activities of the pork industry’s chief lobbying organization."