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Humane Society’s Middlegame: HSUS Files Complaint With USDA Inspector General Over Pork Board’s Use of Checkoff Dollars

It’s safe to say there is no love lost between the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).  HSUS is the so-called animal rights organization devoted to ending modern animal agriculture. The NPPC is the voice of America’s hog farmers on policy and advocacy issues.  Needless to say, they don’t see eye-to-eye on many things and HSUS has repeatedly attempted to stifle NPPC’s free speech rights through complaints with courts and regulatory agencies.

HSUS’s latest salvo is its November 28, 2012, complaint to USDA’s Inspector General (IG), Phyllis Fong (IG Complaint).  HSUS alleges that the National Pork Board (Pork Board) has violated the Pork Act by contributing funds from the Pork Checkoff Program to NPPC for membership in NPPC’s Pork Alliance program.  The Pork Checkoff Program is funded by pork producers who pay a small amount into marketing fund each time an animal is sold.  The Pork Board, which administers the Pork Checkoff Program, is required to expend checkoff funds on “promotion, research, and consumer information plans and projects.” 7 U.S.C. § 4809, 7 C.F.R. § 1230.74(a).  The Pork Act also prohibits the Pork Board from using checkoff funds to influence legislation or government policy or actions.  HSUS contends that by associating with NPPC as a partner in NPPC’s Pork Alliance, the Pork Board is violating the prohibition on funding policy advocacy efforts.  HSUS has requested that the IG investigate and enjoin the Pork Board from remaining as a partner in the Pork Alliance.  In response, NPPC asserts that HSUS’s claim is a “bullying tactic” and is “another desperate attempt by the radical activist group to severely curtail animal agriculture and take away consumer food choices.”
HSUS’s IG Complaint is the latest in a series of bi-monthly attacks on America’s hog producers following NPPC’s opposition to proposed laying hen housing legislation.  In April 2012, HSUS filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which asserted that NPPC was “engaging in deceptive advertising related to animal well-being.”  During July 2012, HSUS filed notices of intent to sue with several large hog producers over allegations that they were violating the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) by failing to report releases of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide into the atmosphere. More recently, HSUS sued USDA during September 2012 over the Pork Board’s purchase of the well-known trademark “The Other White Meat” from NPPC.   While the FTC and USDA complaints remain pending, HSUS did not file suit against any of the six producers who received EPCRA notices of intent to sue.  While it is unclear what the IG will do, it seems fairly certain that this is not the last gambit from HSUS with no endgame in sight.

The Ag/FDABlog will be monitoring further developments related to the IG Complaint.  Until then, the Vegas line on a Wayne Pacelle (CEO of HSUS)/Neil Dierks (CEO of NPPC) beer summit stands at 100,000:1.

A copy of HSUS’ complaint to the USDA Inspector General can be found here.

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