It was a good week for the pork producers.
Last week, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit's granted the National Pork Producers Council's (NPPC) request to intervene in a lawsuit filed by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) against the 2006 sale of the "Pork. The Other White Meat" and Pork trademarks.
"With NPPC being in the case, we will be able to present facts about the sale to the National Pork Board," NPPC Director of Communications told PORK Network. "The Other White Meat trademarks that could refute claims made by HSUS in its suit against USDA. We will protect the interests of America's family hog farmers."
Previous attempts by the NPPC to intervene in the case in late 2015 were denied.
"The win for NPPC comes two weeks after USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service decided that, based on its review of the value of four trademarks the National Pork Board purchased from NPPC, it would continue to approve the [National] Pork Board's annual payments for the trademarks," the group said in a weekly update.
The development came as a blow to the HSUS, which filed the lawsuit against the USDA in 2012 after the "Other White Meat" slogan was retired in 2011.In addition to claims that payment for the trademarks using Pork Checkoff funds was unlawful, HSUS argued the trademarks were grossly overvalued.
A judge initially dismissed the case in 2013, but a federal appellate courtreversed the decision in 2015. In December, USDA and HSUSentered into a "stipulation agreement," whereby HSUS dismissed the part of its complaint seeking USDA recover the funds already paid to the NPPC under the original agreement.
USDA agreed to review the agreement, inviting both HSUS and NPPC to submit information for consideration during the review. The review valued the trademarks between $113 million and $132 million, thereby validating the National Pork Board deal made in 2006 to purchase the trademarks from the NPPC for $30 million.Payment for the slogan was spaced over 20 years, amounting to $3 million annually.
Even with the development, HSUS attorney Matthew Penzer confirmed to PORK Network it will continue to pursue the lawsuit.
"If the government won't do the right thing and stop these funds from being unlawfully funneled to a lobbying group to fuel activities harmful to family farmers and animal welfare, then we'll seek to protect them in court," he said.
Still at issue is how the funds from the Pork Board to NPPC are used. HSUS argued that the sale and payments were unlawful, since the Pork Board is prohibited from using checkoff dollars to influence legislation.Read more.