WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2016 - USDA will review a contract between the National Pork Board (NPB) and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) which pays NPPC $3 million per year for use of their trademark.

In an agreement filed in federal court Dec. 23, the department agreed to review the contract and make a decision by May 2 on the value of the now-discontinued slogan, “Pork: The Other White Meat.”

Under the agreement, the Humane Society of the United States, which sued over the contract in 2012, agreed not to seek an order requiring NPPC to return money it has already received under the contract.

HSUS contends that the Pork Board, which used producers’ pork checkoff funds to develop the marketing campaign, made a “sweetheart” deal 10 years ago to sell the slogan to the NPPC in order to keep NPPC in business.

HSUS argues that the purchase price of $60 million, which comes from producer-generated checkoff funds and is doled out at $3 million per year, is then used to fund NPPC lobbying efforts that run contrary to the goals of HSUS, which advocates for more humane treatment of farm animals. The next payment is due in July.

The board was established by the 1985 farm bill and is responsible for deciding how to spend the money raised from pork producers for research and promotion purposes.

NPPC claimed that it owned the trademark for “Pork: The Other White Meat,” a slogan that was abandoned in 2011 in favor of “Pork: Be Inspired.”

Between 1987 and 2006, when the purchase was being negotiated, the Board had already spent

$500 million in checkoff funds promoting the “Other White Meat” in its advertising programs, HSUS said in its 2012 complaint. Every national campaign involving the trademarked slogan, from its inception, “was funded entirely by mandatory checkoff assessments collected from pork producers,” HSUS said.

In the first round of the litigation, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that HSUS, Iowa pig farmer Harvey Dillenburg and the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement did not have standing to pursue the matter. But the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision in August, finding that Dillenburg does have standing. The court said that because it found standing for Dillenburg, it did not have to examine whether HSUS and ICCI did.

“Any honest review of this illegal use of pork check-off money by a private trade association will show that there’s some funny math going on in Washington, D.C.,” HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle said in a blog post.

“If the new valuation determines that the retired slogan isn’t worth the tens of millions of dollars that constitute the balance of payments on the contract, then the annual payments to NPPC will have to cease, or at least be drastically scaled back.”

NPPC spokesman Dave Warner said the council would not have any comment. “We’re part of the equation, but we’re staying out of it,” he said.

But in a release issued in 2013, then NPPC President Randy Spronk described the case as “clearly a vendetta against the U.S. pork industry by the leadership of HSUS, which has made their mission to permanently end animal agriculture.”

NPPC tried to intervene in the case, but Judge Jackson rejected its motion last month. She said she had “questions about the timeliness of the motion to intervene, which was filed more than three years and two months after the case was filed and after settlement negotiations were already under way.” But Jackson also said that NPPC could submit any materials to USDA by Feb. 15, and that USDA “shall consider those materials as part of (its) review.”  


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