The contentious issue of the Pork checkoff re-emerged this week in the form of an amendment to next year's agriculture appropriation. The measure, authored by Toledo, Ohio Democrat Marcy Kaptur, was attached in a House subcommittee. The amendment would block the USDA from implementing a legal settlement to keep the pork checkoff program alive even though pork producers voted to terminate it.
The source of the rancor generated over the checkoff isn't so much opposition to promotion and market development. Opponents of the mandatory assessment don't question that there are benefits to promoting pork. They do feel the benefits aren't reaching them, and they are skeptical of the character 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.
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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.