March 11, 2016
On Wednesday, speaking at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington D.C., Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack quickly revised his testimony to the House Agriculture Committee after the pork industry loudly called him out for stating the industry was involved in a settlement discussion with the Humane Society of the United States.
During that committee hearing, Vilsack said the decision for the USDA to settle “the Other White Meat” lawsuit with HSUS was “in concert with the industry”. Yet, the two parties — National Pork Producers Council and the National Pork Board — were told by the Department of Justice that they are not allowed to participate in the negotiation with HSUS at all.
In two separate annual meetings, voting delegates of the NPPC and NPB, unanimously approved a resolution and advisement, petitioning the USDA secretary to “mount a strong and vigorous defense.” The unified voice sent a strong message that the pork industry wants to exercise all legal options.
Backtracking, Vilsack says, “I may have gotten a little ahead of my skis here and may have mischaracterized the conversations. The conversations have been about what is consequence of losing and what could be worked out that would be both beneficial to the industry and also would prevent us from an adverse court decision.”
According to Vilsack, the USDA was directed by the court to seek common ground with HSUS and he has instructed his team to make sure the pork industry is “fully briefed on what’s going on.”
At this point, the NPB confirmed that a formal meeting has yet to be scheduled with USDA.
In response, John Johnson, chief operating officer of the National Pork Board says “We heard reports of the Secretary’s comments and do indeed look forward to the opportunity to consult with USDA on this important issue.”
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