NPPC to review ruling on sale of slogan

by Erica Shaffer
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WASHINGTON – A federal court ruled in favor of the Humane Society of the United States, which sued the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) on allegations that NPPC sold the iconic “Pork. The Other White Meat” marketing slogan and unlawfully used the proceeds to fund anti-animal welfare campaigns. NPPC said the organization is reviewing the ruling.

“We are conducting a thorough review of the decision and evaluating our options,” Ken Maschhoff, an Illinois pork producer and president of the NPPC, said in a statement “We are disappointed that the court partially denied the US Dept. of Agriculture’s motion to dismiss this frivolous lawsuit, one that was never based on a legitimate legal challenge to a federally approved transaction but instead was brought by an anti-meat activist group intent on eliminating meat consumption and harming a vast US industry that employs hundreds of thousands of Americans and feeds billions of people at home and abroad.

“NPPC enjoys the strong support of pork producers nationwide,” Maschhoff continued. “Regardless of the final outcome in this case, we are well positioned to continue fighting for the livelihood of farmers and others in rural America.”

The lawsuit originally was filed in 2012 by HSUS, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Harvey Dillenburg, an independent pig producer. In September 2013, a US District Court dismissed the lawsuit. But a federal appeals court revived the lawsuit in 2015.

In its lawsuit, HSUS argued that the NPPC sold its “Pork: The Other White Meat” slogan to the National Pork Board (NPB) for an inflated price of $60 million. The animal welfare group alleged that the payments enabled the NPPC and the NPB to “evade federal restrictions against the use of pork checkoff dollars for purposes of influencing legislation and government policy.” HSUS also alleged that the transaction violated the Pork Promotion, Research, and Consumer Information Act of 1985, the Pork Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Order and the USDA guidelines for checkoff program operations.

Matthew Penzer, special counsel in The HSUS Animal Protection Litigation department and an attorney on the case, said in a statement that the ruling “…halts an abusive misuse of millions of dollars of federal funds that was harmful to animals and responsible family farmers alike. We hope this case signals a future of greater scrutiny and accountable operation of these massively funded government programs.”

The transaction was made in 2006 for $35 million, NPPC said, however a study by USDA later valued the trademarks at between $113 million and $132 million. USDA authorized the transaction as part of the agency’s oversight duties.

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