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Lawsuit involving Pork Checkoff revived

lady justice with scales

In what appears to be a case of the case that won’t go away, last Friday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia breathed some life into a lawsuit dating back to 2012 involving the pork checkoff.

The initial lawsuit brought by the Humane Society of the United States, an independent hog producer and the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement charged that the pork industry’s “Pork. The Other White Meat” trademark slogan was sold unlawfully to fund National Pork Producers Council lobbying efforts.

Though the case revolves around the NPPC and the National Pork Board, which acquired the “Other White Meat” slogan from the NPPC in 2006, neither organization was named in the lawsuit. Instead, the plaintiffs sued both the USDA and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack under the Administrative Procedure Act due to the approval of the trademark purchase. A federal judge dismissed the original lawsuit in 2013.

A 2012 HSUS press release says the deal allowed $60 million in pork producers’ money collected for marketing and promotion purposes to be diverted into industry lobbying efforts aimed at harming animal welfare and small farmers.

Since this movement to revive the lawsuit is only the first step in a probable lengthy court battle, and since the NPB is not party to this suit, an NPB statement reiterates that this is a case between the HSUS and the USDA. “Additionally, the facts of the case have not yet been litigated.”

A USDA spokesperson offered this up. “The Court of Appeal’s decision was based on a procedural issue, and does not address the basic issue in the case that the assessments and expenditures by the National Pork Board were proper. USDA and Department of Justice will be reviewing the court’s decision to determine how to proceed in defending the case. Because the case is in active litigation, we do not want to comment on the substance of the issues, but those will be laid out in our pleadings in the litigation.”

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