WASHINGTON – The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is seeking an investigation into the National Pork Board's use of checkoff funds, claiming the board is using the money to fund National Pork Producers Council lobbying efforts. The group filed a complaint with the US Department of Agriculture's Office of the Inspector General.
At issue is what HSUS says is the Pork Board's involvement with NPPC's Pork Alliance program. HSUS said it had obtained records showing annual purchase orders from the National Pork Board to sponsor or participate in NPPC Alliance activities.
“The Pork Board is currently publicly identified as an NPPC “Alliance Partner,” according to the complaint. “This is the highest level of Pork Alliance membership, incurring annual dues of $20,000. NPB would not be permitted to fund, participate in or endorse such a legislative program, so there can be no lawful circumstance that would justify its association as an Alliance Partner.”
The National Pork Board responded to the complaint via e-mail, saying it is not a member of the Pork Alliance. “The board sponsors a dinner at the fall meeting of the Alliance to give the board the opportunity to get in front a large and influential audience of Checkoff-paying pork producers to showcase pork products and to talk about National Pork Board program and activities,” the NPB relayed.
Additionally, the HSUS complaint said that listing the Pork Board as Pork Alliance partner on the NPPC web site implies endorsement of NPPC's lobbying activities and policy positions.
“The National Pork Producers Council lobbies for large factory farms at the expense of family farms and animal welfare and appears to be using federal checkoff dollars to advance its extreme agenda,” said Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at The HSUS. “If checkoff funds have been illegally diverted to lobbying, USDA should take swift action to ensure America’s pig farmers are not footing the bill for the pork industry’s high-priced lobbyists.”
HSUS cited NPPC's opposition to the egg industry’s efforts to establish uniform standards to for egg-laying hens.
“On that issue, the group claims opposition to national animal-welfare standards, despite having recently helped strike down a California state law to protect “downer” pigs using arguments that the national standard preempted the state law,” The HSUS said.
In its statement, NPPC responded, “This latest attack by the Humane Society of the United States against America's family pig farmers, like the animal-rights activist's previous ones, won't work and won't scare pig farmers into abandoning practices that protect the well-being of their animals.”
The council strongly dismissed HSUS's charges as “baseless, without merit and frivolous.”
“Its claim that Pork Checkoff funds have been misused is patently and demonstrably false,” the statement said. “This attack shows HSUS's desperation following its failure to get the so-called egg bill approved by Congress and its stunning defeats during the November elections. It poured hundreds of thousands of its ‘members’ contribution dollars into political races against lawmakers who support America's family farmers and at least one state ballot initiative. It lost the latter and many of the political races in which it was involved.”