OWATONNA, Minn. — Minnesota hog producers gathered here today to launch a
campaign to end the mandatory pork checkoff.
The Minnesota event followed a national recall kick-off in Des Moines earlier in
the day. The campaign, which features a petition drive to call for a referendum
vote on the checkoff, is being sponsored by the National Campaign for Family
Farms, a nine-state coalition of farm and rural groups, including the
Minnesota-based Land Stewardship Project. The Campaign for Family Farms favors
making the checkoff voluntary.
For a referendum to be held on whether to end the mandatory pork checkoff, 15
percent of the nation’s hog producers must sign a petition. That will require
signatures from approximately 21,000 farmers. Minnesota, the third largest pork
producing state, has 10,800 hog farmers.
The pork checkoff is a mandatory tax collected on each hog sold. Money collected
through the program, which was started in 1986 and is administered by the
National Pork Producers Council, was originally intended to benefit hog farmers
through promotional efforts. However, in recent years the money collected and
spent — $417 million since the checkoff became mandatory — has not provided real
economic benefits to independent hog farmers, said Wabasso pork producer Paul
Sobocinski. He added that since the checkoff started, the U.S. has lost more
than 207,000 hog farmers, 60 percent of all pork producers.
“The real measure of this checkoff’s effectiveness should be how much of the
food dollar the hog farmer is receiving,” said Sobocinski. “Since the mandatory
checkoff took effect, the price of pork per pound at the grocery store has gone
up almost 30 percent, but the farmer’s share of that pork dollar has dropped
more than 10 percent, according to the USDA. This checkoff is putting money in
somebody’s pocket, but it isn’t mine.”
Olivia hog producer Monica Kahout said her family’s operation has forked over
approximately $10,000 to the checkoff since 1986.
“If I am forced to put in this $10,000 then I would think I would see some
return, but I’m not,” she said. “Fewer and fewer people are controlling more and
more of the hogs, and I don’t see the checkoff helping to change that
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