Delegates of the National Pork Board, those pork producers and members of the pork
industry responsible for the collection and oversight of the national pork check-off program, met last week in Indianapolis, Indiana for the National Pork Forum.
The delegates discussion focused on the popular promotional phrase “Pork, The Other White Meat.”
Back in 2006, when the National Pork Board split from the National Pork Producers Council, the pork board entered a contract with the pork producers council to purchase the rights to that phrase.
“We went through a valuation process, and came up with that it had an approximately value of $34 million dollars,” says Derrick Sleezer, the President of the National Pork Board, and a pork producer from Cherokee. “Which then we looked at it from a time standpoint, to a cash flow standpoint, we said, O.K. can we pay for this over 20 years, and it ended up with interest and principle being about $3 million dollars a year for 20 years.”
Sleezer says the terms of the contract even met with the approval from the USDA, and for several years both sides were in agreement with the contract terms and payments had been made.
However, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), has filed a federal lawsuit contesting that contractual agreement.
“HSUS is suing under the premise that check-off dollars cannot be used legislative or lobbying action, but it’s a stretch going from that we are buying something that has value, and those dollars are giving us the opportunity to use to tag the actual logo, if you look at the pork logo, that is the basis of what we are currently using of “Pork: Be Inspired,” says Sleezer.
Sleezer says that HSUS says they are not using the “Pork. The Other White Meat” tagline, but Sleezer says its called a heritage brand.
“We use it in different places, in order to continually move more product,” says Sleezer. “But we went with a new tagline of “Pork. Be Inspired,” but we continually use the trademark.”
The Cherokee, Iowa pork producer says the National Pork Board still holds the rights to the phrase “Pork. The Other White Meat.” But, he says if the Humane Society of the United States should win the lawsuit, it would be costly for the pork producers, and the industry would need to start over.
“If they void the contract, the rights go back to NPPC (National Pork Producers Council), and so we’ll have to figure out… we’ll have to stop using it until we get either an agreement in place, or continue to figure out how we can continue to use a trademark that we have been using,” says Sleezer.
So what is the USDA has done with this matter?
The organization has subsequently entered into settlement discussions with the Humane Society of the United States, and the federal agency has withheld the approval of the annual payments between the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council.
The USDA also wants another valuation of the popular trademark and phrase.
At the recent National Pork Forum, delegates from each representative state signed an advisement telling Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to allow the original terms of the contract to proceed.