The National Pork Board’s payments to the National Pork Producers Council for a popular trademark can continue without interruption following a federal appeals court decision Friday.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals directed the district court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Humane Society of the United States, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, and Iowa pork farmer Harvey Dillenburg on standing grounds.
Dillenburg, the court said, could not show how the board’s $3-million-per-year payments to NPPC for the “Pork: The Other White Meat” trademark harm him economically.
The pork farmer alleged that payments to NPPC from the board, which manages pork checkoff funds, prevented the money from being used for market promotion and other activities that might benefit him.
At issue is the 2006 purchase of the trademark for $34.6 million. Financed over 20 years, the payments come out to $3 million annually, about 17 percent of NPPC's revenues. The district court decision that was on appeal found a 2016 review by USDA of the value of TOWM to be faulty.
The district court also accepted Dillenburg’s claims of injury and reasoned that as a pork producer, he “is affected by the market price for pork.” The district court decision also found that USDA’s approvals of the board’s payments after 2016 were unlawful.
However, the appeals court said, “Dillenburg’s declaration lacks any indication that the ‘price for pork’ was ‘affected’ by the alleged misuse of checkoff funds.”
The appeals court decision said the Humane Society and Iowa CCI could not “salvage” the case because neither organization submitted affidavits to support their standing in the district court.
“Because the plaintiffs offer no evidence that the board’s alleged misuse of checkoff funds caused them to suffer an injury in fact, we vacate the district court’s order and remand with instructions to dismiss the case for lack of standing,” the appeals court said in its 3-0 decision.
NPPC praised the decision. “The dismissal of this case is a win for American pork producers who depend on NPPC’s issues advocacy work and the research, education and promotional work performed by the National Pork Board,” said NPPC President David Herring, a pork producer from Lillington, N.C.
HSUS attorney Matthew Penzer said in a statement, “We’re disappointed in the court’s ruling about a jurisdictional issue, which has nothing do with the merits of the lawsuit. We are evaluating our options, including options for appeal and re-filing. However, importantly, nothing in today’s ruling contradicts the district court’s finding that these payments are unlawful.”
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