Ag Policy Blog

Federal Court Sides With NPPC in HSUS Lawsuit

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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A federal court dismissed a lawsuit on Friday that challenged the National Pork Board's trademarks purchase from the National Pork Producers Council associated with the campaign, "Pork: The Other White Meat." (DTN file photo)

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Washington, D.C., dismissed a Humane Society of the United States lawsuit challenging the National Pork Board's purchase of trademarks associated with the campaign, "Pork: The Other White Meat."

HSUS filed a lawsuit challenging the National Pork Board's 2006 federally approved purchase from NPPC. The National Pork Producers Council had filed the appeal for dismissal.

HSUS argued it and others were injured because proceeds from the transaction were misappropriated by the National Pork Board, the pork "checkoff." The D.C. Circuit found HSUS and its fellow plaintiffs failed to demonstrate they suffered harm from the transaction, including the associated payments.

"The dismissal of this case is a win for American pork producers who depend on NPPC's issues advocacy work and the research, education and promotional work performed by the National Pork Board," NPPC President David Herring said in a news release.

"The real misappropriation of funds is HSUS's continued efforts to fundraise under false pretenses while using its proceeds to attack farmers dedicated to feeding billions of people at home and abroad."

The National Pork Producers Council sold the "Pork, The Other White Meat" trademarks to the National Pork Board in 2006 for about $35 million. It financed the purchase over 20 years, making the Pork Board's annual payment $3 million.

In 2012, the HSUS, the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Harvey Dillenburg, a pork producer from Adair County, Iowa, filed a lawsuit alleging the board opposed HSUS legislative efforts to mandate the more-humane treatment of pigs and other animals. The lawsuit claimed then-U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's approval of the sale of the slogan as well as annual payments made to the NPPC were "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion."

"Here, Dillenburg does not explain how his pork business is harmed by lobbying to promote the pork industry, let alone identify a specific lobbying activity that causes him a concrete injury," the court said in its ruling.

"Instead, Dillenburg highlights his general opposition to the council's lobbying and the government's funding of it."

The lawsuit alleged Vilsack's approval of the board's $60 million expenditure in checkoff funds for the slogan, "violated restrictions on the lawful use of checkoff expenditures, including those set out in the Pork Act, the pork order, and the AMS guidelines."

In 2011, the National Pork Board replaced the decades-old, "The Other White Meat" ad campaign with a new message, "Pork: Be Inspired."

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