FLAG Files Response with Supreme Court Urging End to Pork Checkoff

by 5m Editor
24 April 2004, at 12:00am

WASHINGTON DC - Farmers’ Legal Action Group, on behalf of the Campaign for Family Farms (CFF), filed an opposition to the petitions for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court.

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CFF is asking the Court not to hear the pork checkoff case and effectively end the checkoff. USDA and six state pork associations have asked the Supreme Court accept review and reverse the decision of the Sixth Court of Appeals declaring the pork checkoff unconstitutional.

Independent hog farmers and the Campaign for Family Farms have since 1998 argued through petition drives, a vote and a lawsuit that the pork checkoff forces independent farmers to support a system that hurts them.

October 25, 2002 U.S. District Court Judge Richard Enslen ruled in Federal District Court in Michigan that the checkoff was unconstitutional. Judge Enslen agreed with the independent hog producers and CFF that the mandatory pork checkoff violates the U.S. Constitution and infringes on hog producers' right to free speech by forcing them to pay into a program that supports factory-style hog production and corporate control of the industry, and is detrimental to their interests. Judge Enslen declared that the pork checkoff was "unconstitutional and rotten."

October 22, 2003 The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Richard Enslen's ruling that the mandatory pork checkoff program is unconstitutional and should end. In ruling the pork checkoff unconstitutional, the Sixth Circuit rejected USDA's novel argument that the pork checkoff is a government program. The court found that the pork checkoff "compels [hog farmers] to express a message with which they do not agree," and struck down the entire Pork Act.

USDA and the six state pork associations sought and obtained a stay of that ruling pending the Supreme Court's decision. USDA is also appealing the Eighth Circuit of Appeals ruling that the beef checkoff is likewise unconstitutional. The Supreme Court will consider the petitions in both cases on May 13. The announcement saying whether or not the Supreme Court will agree to hear the pork checkoff case, the beef checkoff case, or both of the cases is expected on Monday, May 17.

The effort by independent hog farmers to end the mandatory pork checkoff began in April 1998, when the Campaign for Family Farms launched a petition drive that succeeded in generating more than 19,000 hog farmer signatures calling for a referendum to end the mandatory checkoff. In August and September 2000, hog farmers voted to end the pork checkoff by a 53% to 47% margin in a nationwide referendum conducted by USDA, which was announced by USDA on January 11, 2001.

The Campaign for Family Farms is a coalition of farm and rural groups that are leading the fight against the corporate takeover of the hog industry and working for policies that support independent family farmers. CFF member groups include the Land Stewardship Project ( Minnesota ), Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Missouri Rural Crisis Center , and Illinois Stewardship Alliance. Farmers' Legal Action Group (FLAG) represents CFF and the individual hog farmers in the lawsuit.

To view the response (in PDF format), please click here.

Source: Farmers' Legal Action Group - 20th April 2004

5m Editor