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September 26, 2013

Humane Society loses pork program challenge

The federal #pork program has survived another challenge, as a federal judge has rejected a multi-pronged lawsuit filed by the Humane Society of the United States and allies.

Among other things, the Humane Society had challenged the Agriculture Department's approval of the National Pork Board's purchase of the slogan "Pork: The Other White Meat" from the National Pork Producers Council.

In a 34-page decision, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson concluded the Humane Society and an Iowa-based group and farmer lacked legal standing to pursue the case. The decision also shed light on how the pork program works.

Like similar programs for the milk and beef industries, among others, the pork program is funded by industry assessments.

As Jackson recounts, the Agriculture Department in 2006 approved the Pork Board's acquisition of the various "Other White Meat trademarks" for $34.587 million. The Board agreed to pay the Council $3 million a year for 20 years. In 2011, the Board got approval to shift marketing gears and adopt the slogan "Pork: Be Inspired."

The Humane Society contended the use of the pork industry check-off assessments to purchase the trademarks was improper for several reasons, including the fact that the Council would be using check-off money to lobby. Jackson, though, reasoned in part that no actual damage could be shown from lobbying.


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"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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