Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a mandatory promotion campaign in the mushroom industry violated the First Amendment rights of a mushroom producer. The high court's ruling called into question the validity of several commodity checkoff programs. In the wake of that decision, the National Pork Producers Council, already mired in a series of legal entanglements, asked a federal court to rule on the constitutionality of its own Pork Checkoff.
The source of the rancor generated over the checkoff isn't so much opposition to promotion and market development, the program's main goals. Opponents argue the benefits simply aren't reaching them. And they're skeptical of the organization that launched the "Other White Meat" campaign.
There's little doubt "The Other White Meat" has been a successful promotional campaign for the pork industry.
A study conducted by Northwestern University last year, revealed the "Other White Meat" to be the fifth most recognizable slogan in contemporary advertising history.
Meanwhile, a Texas A&M study, commissioned by the National Pork Board, estimated producers reap a 5-to-1 net return ratio on their checkoff dollars.
Rhonda Perry: "What we're here today to say is that this gravy train to the NPPC is coming to a halt..."
Those opposed to the checkoff, cite different numbers. According to the Campaign for Family Farms, pork producers have paid more than half-a-billion dollars into the fund since the program became mandatory in 1986.
During that time period, the Campaign claims two-out-of-every-three hog farmers in America, went out of business.
Wayne Demmer, raises hogs in Northeastern Iowa. He claims the checkoff no longer serves the interests of smaller pork producers.
Wayne Demmer: "We've lost over 200,000 farmers since the pork checkoff has become mandatory. Back before the checkoff started, we were averaging, I think, 48-49 dollars per hundredweight. The last 3-5 years, we've averaged about 41 dollars per hundredweight. So, it's become a situation of promoting big and we're promoting small farmers out of business. And I don't need to pay a checkoff to an organization that's going to put me out of business."