Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pork checkoff funds lobbying alliance

The federal government's semi-public checkoff programs collect mandatory assessments from producers.  Of course, it is illegal to use these funds for lobbying.

Yet, the National Pork Board (the pork checkoff program), overseen by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, is listed as an "Alliance Partner" for a National Pork Producer Council lobbying organization.  The NPPC is a private-sector pork industry trade association.  The NPPC's alliance web page explains the lobbying goal:
Pork Alliance dues are used to fund outreach for critical legislative and regulatory industry priorities, including foreign trade access, environment, food safety and animal welfare issues.
The dues mentioned in the web page are large.  The application form (.pdf) on the NPPC website says that the dues for becoming an "Alliance Partner" are $20,000.

I am not surprised that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has filed a legal complaint with the USDA Inspector General.  The mandatory assessments are being funneled to a lobbying organization.  No matter what you think of the HSUS, it seems wrong for the federal government to use its power of taxation to place a finger on the scale of the public debate.

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