Pork Producers Vote

By George Grow

This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

American pork producers have voted against a program designed to expand markets for pork products.

For a number of years, all pork producers have been required to make payments to a federally supervised program that tries to increase the demand for pork. Earlier this month, the United States Secretary of Agriculture ordered his agency to prepare to end what is called the pork checkoff program. However, a group that represents pork producers is threatening legal action to stop the decision.

Since Nineteen-Eighty-Six, pork producers have been required to pay forty-five cents for every one-hundred dollars a hog is worth when it is sold. The money goes to the National Pork Board, a group appointed by the Agriculture Secretary. The Board decides how the money is to be spent. Last year, the program collected about fifty-four million dollars. Much of the money is given to the National Pork Producers Council for informational campaigns in support of pork and pork products. It also is used for new product development and research activities.

Twelve years ago, the Agriculture Department held a vote on the effectiveness of the program. More than seventy-seven percent of all pork producers and importers voting supported the checkoff program.

Last year, a study by Texas A&M University found that the program was a good investment for pork producers. A few months later, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman called for another vote on the program. Fourteen-thousand-four-hundred pork producers voted to keep the program. However, more than fifteen-thousand nine-hundred others opposed it. Mr. Glickman said the results show that the program does not have the support of pork producers.

The Campaign for Family Farms helped lead the fight against the checkoff program. Members of that group say the program helps large farming businesses, not small producers.

The president of the National Pork Producers Council, Craig Jarolimek, criticized the vote. He said the Agriculture Department let politics decide the future of one of the most successful American agriculture programs. Farm experts say the decision could affect similar programs to increase sales of beef, cotton and milk.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.

Voice of America Special English