Kurt Johnson & Corporate NAFTA farm politics, Pork Producers Council 1990s spy ops: HogSpy DFL Primary MN-19A Special Election?
"[T]he activists we are concerned about here are the ones who want to change the way your industry does business--either for good or bad reasons: environmentalists, churches, Public Interest Research Groups, campus organizations, civic groups, teachers unions, and 'Naderites'." (quoted in Montague 1993) -- Ronald Duchin, from the PR firm Mongoven, Biscoe and Duchin, categorises activists as either radicals, opportunists, idealists or realists.... Duchin's formula is therefore to isolate the radicals, turn the idealists into realists, co-opt the realists to support industry solutions and the opportunists will go along with the final agreement. The radicals, he says, need the support of the idealists and realists to have credibility. Without them they are marginalised and "seen to be shallow and self-serving." (Montague 1993) Greenwash - Categorising Environmentalists
Interesting tidbit surfaces! A filed Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidate for Minnesota House District 19A, Kurt Johnson, has just been passed over for endorsement today by DFL, though he came in second in four rounds of balloting. Confusingly, someone named Clark Johnson won DFL endorsement on the fourth ballot in North Mankato today, as reported at Clark Johnson wins DFL endorsement for House 19A » The Free Press, Mankato, MN. The primary is Jan. 29th and the general election is Feb. 12th.
Due to the compressed schedule, all the candidates will appear on the primary ballot. For the general election, eccentric lolcat & famed undercover investigator of pornography Allen Quist will be repping for the Republican Party, fresh off an unsuccessful, but name ID-boosting, congressional campaign vs Tim Walz.
Anyway Kurt Johnson was the president of the primary corporate hog farmer lobby, the National Pork Producers Council, in part of the 1990s. The following bio says 1994 only, though another says 1993. In 1997, NPPC was exposed for hiring corporate spying specialists, Mongoven, Biscoe & Duchin Inc., in 1996. Therefore we could say there is a pretty close overlap between corporate spying and Johnson's tenure, though very little information surfaces online about this. NPPC is also considered by PRWatch as a pro-factory farming ALEC supporter.
Summary point: Not being familiar with the pork industry or MBC's spying, this is not a blockbuster post with sekrit sources but there seem to be interesting patterns. One finds very little documented connection between Johnson & MBC, however it seems reasonable to say there appears 2nd or 3rd degree links connecting Johnson & the MBC operation through NPPC and the pro-checkoff campaign he was co-chairing around 2000.
Johnson has been a player within and a supporter of global trade agreement deals, putting him firmly in the 'globalist' camp if you prefer that label. See this: 1997: Connect Business Magazine » Cover Story » Karl Johnson
Besides co-owning Equity Supply, North Mankato’s Karl Johnson also raises hogs – and lots of them: this year 20,000 and next year about 35,000. Hogs are the means through which he’s earned a national reputation. He’s also worked on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and GATT, testified before Congress, been interviewed by most major news organizations, and currently he sits on a special task force for Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman. And all because of hogs.
You could say he “brings home the bacon” for the region’s hog producers.
Karl Johnson is in full command of his facts and can communicate those facts well. He leans back in his chair and makes you feel good about hogs. For once he has the chance to tell you pork’s story from pork’s perspective. And he seems to enjoy that.
CONNECT: When you were president of the National Pork Producers Council, how do you feel you were treated by the media, by politicians and by special interest groups?
Johnson: It’s a mixed reaction, quite frankly, but by-and-large rather well. I wouldn’t say that we had tremendous problems. Obviously I’ve testified before Congress several times and was usually well-received. I worked very hard on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the GATT agreement. In Washington I was by-and-large rather well-received. We would go in with Congressmen who were concerned about what was happening in their area and we talked about the pork industry – I’ve had that (experience). We go through some negatives, there’s no question about that. There’s some tough interviews.
I was interviewed by the ABC news program probably three years ago now; talking about the swine industry and how it relates to the world. Anyway, I remember we did an hour and a-half interview like this, with TV, so they’re doing the whole thing, and I was in a chair and an office for an hour and a-half. I was put through the wringer, if you will. And I thought I must have done fairly well because they only used ten seconds of it. (laughter) So sometimes you’re beat up a little bit. Mostly we’ve found that, or I’ve found, that interviewers from the Washington Post to the L.A. Times, to the Wall Street Journal, once they’ve started visiting with you and found out some of the facts – at first they were on a mission – but when they found out the facts they would back off. We were treated, I think, fairly decently.
I think, now in the last couple of years, some things have come about where that is not quite as true. I think that we are being viewed as corporate agriculture, which scares everyone. We’re not. I mean, there’s still an awful lot of independent producers that are forming alliances. But it’s being perceived differently. We’ve got some groups within agriculture, there are some offshoot groups, that are fighting this consolidation, if you will, of agriculture. They’re getting some tough times. Sometimes, I think, as well, that in the press it’s not a story unless it’s a negative story. Sometimes that happens. A good friend of mine is a reporter with the Minneapolis Tribune and I know that he has that same opinion – he will agree with me on that. It doesn’t sell papers if you don’t make it a bit interesting.
Occupation: Co-owner of Equity Supply in Mankato. Pork producer, rural North Mankato (currently produces 20,000 market hogs).
Born: December 24, 1945.
Education: Mankato High School Class of ’63. Attended Mankato State University.
National Experience: Past President, National Pork Producers Council (1994). Current Chairman, National Pork Producers Council Foreign Trade Committee. Officer, U.S. Meat Export Federation. Member, Special Task Force, for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, on concentration of U.S. packing industry.
Regional and Local Experience: Past President, MN Pork Producers Association (’84-’85). Former Chairman, Mankato Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee. Former Member, South Central Technical College Foundation. Chairman of the Board, Frost-BENCO-Wells Electric. Community Board Member, Norwest Bank, Mankato.
Mongroven, Biscoe & Duchin Inc. were hired to spy on opponents of the NPPC partly using revenue from something I'd never heard of before, the "Pork Checkoff", a researcher discovered. See About Pork Checkoff and the National Pork Board. "U.S. pork producers and importers pay $0.40 per $100 of value when pigs are sold and when pigs or pork products are brought into the United States." I'm kind of confused about the status of the checkoff today (large sums collected in Minnesota in 2012), but it seems pretty clear that checkoff money was used to spy on NPPC opponents during an era where Johnson played a key role in defending the checkoff for NPPC. [Nov 2012 MN pork Checkoff report, March 2012 National Pork Checkoff Nominating Committee ]
MBD has a storied history of working as henchmen & specialists on spying on activists for the tobacco industry, the chlorine industry, and they started with Nestlé in 1981 when people fought their nasty baby formula marketing in the developing world. They don't even seem to have a website. Be sure to see Mongoven, Biscoe & Duchin: destroying tobacco control activism from the inside -- Carter 11 (2): 112 -- Tobacco Control including "monitoring and co-opting NGOs" and "character assassination research":
A particularly nasty specialty of MBD is preparing backgrounders on individuals who lead tobacco control efforts, presumably to enable the industry to discredit them in the eyes of the public or decision makers. PM specifically requested that MBD investigate Dr Sydney Wolfe of the Health Research Group (HRG), Cliff Douglas of the American Lung Association, and Scott Ballin of the American Heart Association in 1992. MBD sent information they already had on file and advised “If we had a day or so we could expand on this information significantly.”31 As well as general career path and network information, Mongoven's somewhat desperate attempts to identify a character flaw involve an association with prominent consumer advocate Ralph Nader and a very tenuous suggestion that this may have influenced the awarding of a grant.31 Far more vicious is MBD's work on Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland in relation to her appointment as Director General of the WHO. Brundtland moved tobacco control to the top of the WHO priority list on her appointment, thus posed a significant threat to the industry. In 1998 Mongoven provided intelligence both on the appointment process and Brundtland's loyalties, predicting that she was certain to be elected to the position.32
We are really talking about the dirty black-bag job types, the undertakers of the technocratic 'expertise' driven world dominated by professional Public Relations - as covered by PRWatch writers Rampton & Stauber in Trust Us, We're Experts | PR Watch.
They are still listed here at 1100 Connecticut Ave NW #300 Washington DC 20036, at phone 202-429-1800. (lol same spot as the Anti-Defamation League according to the map!)
via Through tobacco industry eyes: civil society and the FCTC process from Philip Morris and British American Tobacco’s perspectives | Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education - a little hard to read but interesting - http://tobacco.ucsf.edu/sites/default/files/tc.2010.041657.full_.pdf
Here's the Big Kit & Kaboodle: The Land Stewardship Project reported the spying involving the NPPC and the Pork Checkoff in 1997: Pork Checkoff 'Spy' Funds Questioned - 1/17/1997 (also posted almost same version at Pork Producers Council uses checkoff to investigate farm groups by Brian DeVore - Rural America / In Motion Magazine)
Pork Checkoff 'Spy' Funds Questioned
NPPC paid PR firm to keep tabs on unknowing sustainable ag and family farm groups, according to Council documents leaked to the media.
1/17/97: The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has paid $50,000 to investigate the activities of six family farm and sustainable agriculture groups, according to NPPC documents leaked to the media last week. Part of that money, which was paid to a Washington, D.C., public relations firm, came from the federal pork checkoff, says Alan Guebert, an Illinois-based journalist who wrote about the NPPC's surveillance work in this week's edition of his syndicated column.
The PR firm, Mongoven, Biscoe and Duchin, Inc., was hired by the NPPC in 1996, and its investigation of grassroots groups continues as part of a $100,000, checkoff-sponsored program called Strategic Communication Initiatives, according to NPPC officials.
"The NPPC is run by the big producers and corporate factory farms for their own benefit, and they use our money to do it," said Rodney Skalbeck, a Renville County, Minn., hog farmer and a member of the Land Stewardship Project. "Now they're trying to defuse some of the organizations that represent the average family farmer and rural citizens. It's got to stop. Let's end the mandatory checkoff."
The checkoff is a mandatory system for collecting money from every hog farmer in the country for promotion, research and education purposes. In 1996, the NPPC received approximately $45 million in pork checkoff funds from tens of thousands of producers. Approximately $24 million of that total came from the largest 40 producers in the country, who own more than 1.7 million sows collectively.
Three of the groups being watched by the firm without their knowledge -- Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Missouri Rural Crisis Center and the Minnesota-based Land Stewardship Project -- are members of the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment (CFFE). The Campaign has confronted NPPC officials on several occasions for promoting industrialized hog factories at the expense of independent family farmers. CFFE groups have also questioned the truthfulness of information provided to state and federal legislators by NPPC and its state affiliates.
In response to the news of NPPC using producers' money for surveillance, the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment has called for a congressional investigation into the use of NPPC checkoff funds, an end to the mandatory checkoff, and the resignation of NPPC president Bob Ruggles.
"I should be shocked by NPPC's paranoid tactics but I'm not," said Iowa CCI member and Marshall County, Iowa, hog producer Larry Ginter. "Why should my money go to support spying on farm organizations that are trying to help me and other independent family hog producers? It's time to end the mandatory pork checkoff."
Ron Perry, a Livingston County, Mo., hog farmer and a member of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center was also outraged: "It's obvious the NPPC has lost touch with the concerns of average hog farmers. They see us as a threat because we've successfully exposed their corporate agenda. We're having a big impact."
Mongoven, Biscoe and Duchin is regarded as the number one "spies for hire" public relations firm in the country, according to John Stauber, editor of PR Watch, a publication that covers the public relations industry. John Mongoven, president of the firm, was a public relations consultant for Nestle Foods when the company was attempting to counter an international church-led boycott protesting the food company's deadly practice of selling infant formula to women in third world countries.
The Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment is a coalition of eight groups in six states that are fighting against hog factories and concentration in the livestock industry. Other members of the coalition include Illinois Stewardship Alliance, Citizens of Lincoln Township, North Carolina Land Loss Prevention Project, Animal Welfare Institute and the Oklahoma Toxics Campaign.
Release from Brian DeVore, communications coordinator, The Land Stewardship Project.
While he has been involved with this pork checkoff thing, he may have only been president in 1993 if this profile is accurate: Minnesotan Inducted Into Hall of Fame | National Hog Farmer:
North Mankato, MN, pork producer Karl Johnson has been inducted into the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) Hall of Fame for his outstanding contributions to the pork industry.
Johnson, a 40-year veteran of the pork industry, runs a farrow-to-finish operation with his brother, Paul.
Johnson served as president of NPPC in 1993, during which he represented producer interests on various trade issues including the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs. [GATT]
Karl Johnson also served as president of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association, chairman of the U.S. Meat Export Federation and was on the Secretary of Agriculture’s Technical Advisory Committee, which addressed trade issues.
Perhaps more interesting is Johnson's staunch advocacy in farm world for NAFTA and GATT, and his particular role writing these trade deal which benefitted big agri-biz corporations at the expense of the family farm both domestically and internationally.
See quote in AP story in Kentucky New Era: Farmers' split on NAFA leaves lawmakers confused - Oct 25 1993.
In 1991 Johnson was named as Vice President of NPPC according to Nevada Daily Mail March 19 1991. The Nevada Daily Mail - Google News Archive.
According to New Ulm Journal there were ad buys planned by Karl, unclear if will happen now.
Karl Johnson, a hog farmer and former president of several pork producer organizations on the state and national level, feels his strength in the endorsement and in a 19A race against Quist is his ability to reach rural voters. He said he has strong name recognition in the district, making him able to peel away voters from Quist's demographics, as well as being able to run without needing to spend money on introducing himself to voters.
All the DFL candidates previously said they would abide by the endorsement, and party leadership indicated they expected unity in the process.
However, Karl Johnson declined to comment Thursday when asked if he would abide by the endorsement. He acknowledge purchasing ads for his candidacy that started Thursday and will air through the weekend in the Mankato area. He also has ads planned for the middle of next week in a wider area, including KNUJ in New Ulm.
It In the late 1990s, the National Pork Producers Council was discovered to have employed notorious low-profile corporate spying specialists via the 'pork checkoff' money. By 2000, a fully confusing situation had resulted:
NPPC Accuses Anti-Checkoff Forces of Misleading Actions - source http://www.agriculturelaw.com/headlines/aug00/aug24c.htm
August 24, 2000
The National Pork Producers Council says opponents of the pork research and promotion program, also known as the checkoff program used "blatant efforts to mislead ... and misrepresent information" about two checkoff programs. The information was in a Wednesday news release distributed by the Campaign for Family Farms along with the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Missouri Rural Crisis Center and the Land Stewardship Project, NPPC said.
"As pork producers, we should not tolerate the blatant efforts to mislead producers and misrepresent information about the pork checkoff, being told by anti-checkoff activists," said Karl Johnson, Mankato, Minnesota pork producer and co-chair of the Vote Yes Task Force. "It is time to set the record straight."
Johnson said, "The anti-checkoff activists are targeting a study being conducted by Louisiana State University (LSU). The study was designed to assess producer needs. Results will be used to help determine direction of producer education programs to assure producers have access to the types of programs and information they need-- like modern record keeping, production practices, educational seminars and risk management."
Jeffery Gillespie, LSU agriculture economics associate professor, who was quoted in the news release, said they misrepresented the facts, according to NPPC. In reality, NPPC added, Gillespie said, "This is an economic research study designed to look at a cross-section of pork producers. LSU developed this study with the intent of identifying producer needs. NPPC had no input or changes into the construction of the survey. Checkoff funding was provided to support the printing and mailing costs."
The results of the LSU study will not be complete or available until August 2001, therefore having no impact on the outcome of this referendum, NPPC noted.
"Unfortunately, the anti-checkoff activists did not stop there in their misinformation," said Johnson. "They also alleged the National Pork Producers Council was using checkoff funds in Colorado. In reality, the Colorado Pork Producers Council used state checkoff funds to air consumer radio commercials in Colorado, the content of which USDA had approved," according to Johnson.
By law, pork checkoff dollars can not be used to persuade a producer to vote for or against the checkoff. They can only be used to encourage producers to vote.
Donna Reifschneider, co-chair of the Vote Yes Task Force said pork producers should be "wary of the plethora of misinformation and half-truths being touted by anti-checkoff activists." She added, "This is only the latest in a string of attacks against the checkoff and the producer programs it funds. We are not going to stand still and let the anti-checkoff activists attack the highly successful pork checkoff any longer. It is time they get their facts straight. We stand by the truth, it must also be required of the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment, the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Missouri Rural Crisis Center and the Land Stewardship Project."
In their news release, the activist groups said two examples of NPPC "misuse of checkoff funds to influence the vote" had been found by "hog farmer members of the Campaign for Family Farms." They said NPPC's "repeated misuse of checkoff funds to influence the checkoff vote demonstrates the lack of accountability of the checkoff" and called on USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service of USDA to suspend checkoff spending until the final results of the referendum are posted.
"Hog farmers," the groups claimed, "found out the Colorado Pork Producers Association is proposing to use $12,000 in checkoff funds to air 30 second radio ads promoting the checkoff and emphasizing the benefits of the checkoff program. The commercials will run in the major pork producing areas of Colorado during the absentee voting period (August and September)."
That, they added, is "unconscionable (in) that at the same time producers' share of the retail dollar has dropped from 46 cents to less than 30 cents, NPPC attempts to spend checkoff dollars to influence the upcoming checkoff vote." Rhonda Perry, Missouri hog farmer and Missouri Rural Crisis Center member, said, "They can't play by the rules because they'll lose, they know that independent hog farmers will vote to end their mandatory, multi_million dollar tax."
They also claimed NPPC has used checkoff dollars to fund a recent study by Louisiana State University (LSU) that was supposedly intended to find out which type of producer (independent, contract or corporate) will likely be left in hog production in the future.
"The head of research for the study, LSU Associate Professor Jefferey M. Gillespie, confirmed that checkoff dollars were being used," the news release said. "According to Gillespie, the study contains two questions about how producers are planning to vote in the pork checkoff referendum. Gillespie said the NPPC will use this information to help them identify different types of producers that will vote to continue the mandatory pork checkoff."
NPPC is violating federal rules by using checkoff dollars to influence the vote, the groups said. "The USDA clearly explained to the NPPC that they could not use checkoff dollars to sway the vote, yet that's exactly what they're doing," said Wayne Demmer, a Dubuque county independent hog producer and Iowa CCI member. "They will attempt to use the radio ads to promote the benefits of the checkoff and the information from the LSU study to develop referendum strategies to try to figure out how to win votes."
Co-chair of the Vote Yes Task Force, Karl Johnson, said, "The pork checkoff has been a phenomenal success at what it was designed to do, build demand and address issues that individual producers couldn't do on their own. The pork checkoff is producer-driven and has evolved to meet the needs of pork producers."
According to Johnson, a Mankato, MN, pork producer, "The checkoff-funded Pork. The Other White Meat advertising campaign, originally undertaken to reposition pork to U. S. consumers, has done so. Today, the campaign has increased U.S. pork demand, reversing a dramatic decline from 1979 to 1985."
Johnson continued that U.S. pork is making its mark worldwide. Through checkoff-funded foreign market development, the U. S. now is a net exporter of pork, instead of a net importer. In 1990, the U.S. exported only 244 million pounds of pork. In 2000, the U.S. will export about 1.275 billion pounds of pork.
Johnson also cited a 17% increase in pork's usage at restaurants, as a direct result of checkoff-funded efforts. He said that increase is important, because 54% of all U.S. pork is eaten by people away from home.
Chicago Tribune November 29 1993: Nafta Likely To Boost Export Opportunities For U.s. Pork Producers - Chicago Tribune
Buoyed by congressional passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, pork industry leaders are predicting rising export opportunities into Mexico, already our country's second-largest market.
"Congress has sent a strong signal to America's pork producers . . . that our trade policy is going to back U.S. pork producers' efforts to compete in the global marketplace," said Karl Johnson, a pork producer from Mankato, Minn., and president of the Des Moines-based National Pork Producers Council.
"Approval of NAFTA is a landmark decision that will greatly enhance our opportunity to export pork and pork products as well as live hogs to Mexico," Johnson asserted. "It also shows that the United States is not going to concede important markets to our subsidized competitors, such as the European Community. This is especially critical during these final days of the negotiations on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade."
Johnson said U.S. pork producers are in a position to provide the 400,000 metric tons of additional pork demand that Mexico probably will need by the year 2000. He pointed out that 1992 U.S. pork exports to 62 countries totaled far less: 140,180 metric tons.
At present, Mexico cannot export fresh, chilled or frozen pork or live hogs to the U.S. because of hog cholera in Mexico. The prohibition continues under NAFTA. Meanwhile, the trade accord requires Mexico to eliminate over the next 10 years its tariffs of 20 percent of the value of U.S. pork and live hog shipments.
Comments from the pork producers came as leaders of farm and commodity groups for the most part hailed the passage of the controversial trade agreement between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada as good for American agriculture, especially Midwest agriculture. The agreement phases out tariffs and other trade barriers. [...........]
AP July 26 1993: Farm Groups Lobby Congress For Trade Agreement: ''If we don't open trade with Mexico, someone else will,'' said Karl Johnson, president of the National Pork Producers Council.
March 2001: AgriMarketing.com - Pork Checkoff Vote Raises Questions and Concerns: "Pork Producer "Vote Yes" Task Force Co-chair Karl Johnson, a producer from Mankato, Minn., adds that discontinuation of the pork checkoff would be detrimental to the work the checkoff already has accomplished. "The progress made with the image, acceptance and demand for pork will slip away, the pork industry could experience accelerated consolidation, and coordinated efforts of research, education and information will be lost," Johnson says. "
From 1996: MBD: Mission Despicable | PR Watch
by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton
Have you ever wondered what it's like to talk to a spy? The experience is quite a bit less dramatic than the scenarios you see in Mission Impossible, according to activists who have recently been targeted by phone calls and other information-gathering efforts.
The field operatives who gather information for Mongoven, Biscoe & Duchin are typically polite, low-key and do their best to sound sympathetic to the people they are interrogating. They have misrepresented themselves, claiming falsely to be journalists, friends of friends, or supporters of social change. Most of the time, however, they simply give very limited information, identifying their company only by its initials and describing MBD euphemistically as a "research group" which helps "corporate decision makers . . . develop a better appreciation of the public interest movement" in order to "resolve contentious public policy issues in a balanced and socially responsible manner."
MBD performs its services by pumping members of activist groups for information about their philosophical beliefs, funding sources, organizational structure and affiliations, and names of key personnel. Information only gets shared in one direction, however. "Our relations with our clients are confidential," stated MBD President Jack Mongoven in a June 7, 1995 memo refusing PR Watch's request for a list of MBD's corporate clients.
MBD says it is "grateful" when activists "cooperate" by answering its information requests, but don't expect the company to show its gratitude in any meaningful way, such as sending you a copy of the reports it writes about you. Those reports will be stamped confidential and delivered only to MBD's clients, who pay as much as $9,000 per month for the privilege of seeing them. Otherwise, MBD's "research" only sees the light of day on the rare occasions when a conscience-stricken corporate employee decides to turn whistleblower.
Sourcewatch also identifies NPPC as an ALEC supporter: National Pork Producers Council - SourceWatch
Here is a full report on NPPC using pork checkoff funds for the MBD spying: Summary of AMS Audit of NPPC - Prepared by Hugh Espy / Rural America - In Motion Magazine
Summary of AMS Audit of NPPC
Prepared by Hugh Espy,
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
Des Moines, Iowa
Compliance staff from the Unites States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Marketting Service (AMS) conducted a limited review of a complaint that the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) had used checkoff funds collected by the National Pork Board to pay Mongoven, Biscoe and Duchin (MBD), Washingson D.C. public relaltions firm, for information on the activities of certain activist (family farms) groups and individuals.
The reviewers were able to determine that NPPC used non-checkoff funds to pay for the report in question, but that the NPPC did not pay for thc report until after the media and the USDA began questioning the funding subject matter of the report.
The review also disclosed that the NPPC had an existing agreement with MBD to routinely monitor groups and individuals, A total of $51,300 was paid by checkoff funds for these services.
The AMS review focused on four main questions:
- Did NPPC use checkoff funds to pay for thc MBD report entitled "Overview of Farm Groups"?
- Was the material produced by MBD consistent with the project description (provided by NPPC to the USDA) that USDA had approved?
- Was the material produced by MBD under the "contract" allowed under the Pork Promotion, Research and Consumer Order?
- Was the "contract" between NPPC and MBD entered into properly?
Did NPPC use checkoff funds to pay for the $3.449 MBD report entitled "Overview of Farm Goups?
Conclusion from AMS compliance staff:
NPPC ultimately paid $3,449 for the MDB report from unrestricted funds (noncheckoff funds). However, the check to pay for this report was issued on February 6, 1996. alnost a week after the report began to generate interest from the media. In addition, the check was backdated about three weeks. Coincidentally, the check was issued shortly after the media and AMS questioned the principal people involved (Charles Harness, Mike Simpson, etc.).
Other findings related to Question #1
In early December l996, Charles Harness at NPPC asked Ron Duchin at MBD to prepare a report on .several organizations that had taken positions critical of the large-scale hog operations and chages in the pork industry. The request was; made by telephone and there was no evidence that it was ever confirmed in a written contract or letter.
MBD prepared a report entitled "Overview of Various Organizations Concerned with Rur~al/Hog Industry Issues." The report contained "ovenviews of organizations concerned with rural issues that we (Mongoven) have determined will be the leaders of continuing anti-hog, anti-corporate livestock production in the coming year." The organizations named in the report were: Iowa Citizens for Community Inprovement, the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, the Land Stewardship Project, the Center for rural Affairs, the National Farmers Union, and the Corporate Agribusiness Research Project. the report was sent to about 30 state pork producer groups.
NPPC officials claim that they received MDB's invoice for the report shortly after they received the report on December 17, 1996. They also claim that the invoice was not paid within several weeks (as was NPPC's usual practise) because it was "misplaced" on a "manager's desk" for more than 45 days. Harness claimed he backdated the check for accounting purposes, but NPPC's Chief Financial Officer (Jim Stavneak) said the backdating was irrelevant from an accounting standpoint.
Duchin claimed the MDB invoiced NPPC on December 16 following the completion of its report. But MBD's invoice for the report is out of sequence with other MBD invoices. Four other invoices sent by MBD to NPPC are sequentially ordered in chronological order. Only the MBD invoice for the $3,449 report is out of order.
Member groups of the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment (which inludes Iowa CCI, LSP and MRCC) think that NPPC was planning to use checkoff funds to pay for the $3,449 rport. NPPC was forced to use non-checkoff funds when the report became public.
Was the material produced by MBD consistent with the project description (provided by NPPC to the USDA) that USDA had approved?
Conclusion from AMS compliance staff:
No. The information provided by MBD to NPPC through the checkoff-funded agreement was not consistent with the objectives and methods of the project description (Strategic Communications Inititative) approved by the USDA. NPPC told USDA that the objective of its 1996 Strategic Communications Inititative was to encourage positive reporting by "targetting" certain writers in order to encourage positive reporting. NPPC led USDA to believe that it was going to launch a positive promotion campaign.
However many of the reports submitted by MBD provided information on organizations and people with critical views of the pork industry. NPPC's project describes "targetting" writers, but the reports rarely (if ever) identified writers. Instead they focused on the activities of organizations.
Was the material produced by MBD under the "contract" allowed under the Act and the Order?
Conclusion from AMS compliance staff:
No. The subject matter of MBD's report fell outside the generally-recognized limits on the use of checkoff funds. Areview of the subject matter contained in MBD's checkoff funded reports for November 1996 through January 1997 reveals that the reports were primarily concerned with groups opposed large-scale agricultural operations. These reports were separate from the $3,349 report completed in December 1996.
The AMS told National Pork Board executive director Mike simpson in a May 1990 letter that checkoff funds could not be used to monitor or discredit activist organizations. Despite this, NPPC used checkoff funds to pay MBD for monitoring groups or individuals that were largely critical of large scale hog operations, including groups that have members who are hog farmers.
Other findings related to Question #3
NPPC's relationship with MBD's began in 1995 when NPPC entered into an agreement with MBD to provide information on a particular ogranization. On or about May 1, 1996, Harness (NPPC) and Duchin (MBD) entered into an oral agreement whereby NPPC would pay MDB for gathering information, during a 3-month trial period, on individuals and groups that might be critical of pork industry practises and/or large scale hog operations. NPPC sent MBD a check for $14,4000 on May 17, 1996 for the 3-month contract. This money came from checkoff funds.
After the 3-month trial period, Harness requested that MDB continue to monitor and report as it had during the trial period. MDB agreed, and Duchin wrote Harness on July 12, 1996, confirming their oral agreement to continue MDB's monitoring and reporting services. The monthly fee was $4,100, which would be paid for with checkoff funds.Between mid-May 1996 and late January 1997, NPPC paid MDB a total of $51,300 from checkoff funds for monitoring activist groups and individuals.
MBD produced checkoff-funded reports for NPPC on the following organizations: Pew Charitable Trusts, National Wildlife Federation, Wilderness Society, National Audobon Society, Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, World Wildlife Fund, Friends of the Earth, World Wide Fund for Nature Gulf and Caribbean Campaign, and activist senior citizen and student groups that may be active on local environmental issues.
The AMS findings directly contradict earlier statements made by Harness and AL Tank, NPPC's CEO. Both Harness and Tank had said that NPPC monitored issues, not organizations.
Was the "contract" between NPPC and MBD entered into properly?
Conclusion from AMS compliance staff:
Probably not. In December 1995, NPPC contracted with the National Pork Board to perform the Pork Board's administrative functions. Therefore, when NPPC enters into contracts using checkoff funds, NPPC is acting either as a de facto Board, or, at the very least, as the Board's agent. As such, NPPC and those it contracts with are required to comply with the same law and regulations as the Pork Board.
The unwritten agreement between NPPC and MBD was a contract. It contains the general terms for the service and products to be provided, and the consideration to be paid for them. On the other hand, it lacks specificity, and omits many of the normal business terms found in written contracts, including provisions for governing law, waivers, indemnity, termination, and the like.
The Order requires that every contract the Pork Board enters into must contain certain specific provisions. Because the contract in this case is oral, it cannot fulfill the Order's requirements. The NPPC-MBD agreement is also at aodds with the agreements between the Pork Board and NPPC. For example, Pork Board-NPPC agreement states that all contracts the NPPC enters into that are for more than $10,000 must contain certain provisions relating to affirmative action and civil rights. The Order requires that all Pork Board contracts specify that the contractor's records are to be made available to the Secretary (of Agriculture Glickman)'s representatives for inspection (MBD refused to give AMS compliance staff access to its billing and collection records). The NPPC-MBD agreement does not contain many of these required terms.
Published in In Motion Magazine April 12, 1999.
Karl Johnson and his brother, run a 1,300 sow farrow-to-finish operation near Mankato, Minnesota.
Rhonda Perry raises hogs too, but other than that, the two have little in common.
Johnson's hogs are raised in confinement buildings and about half of them are marketed through contracts with packers.
Karl Johnson: "pork production has changed like the world has changed. It's become more consolidated. how many hardware stores are there left? Not very many small hardware stores, not very many car dealers, implement dealers, that type of things. Farms are getting larger. and pork producers have gotten larger. i don't know that i'm necessarily in favor of that, but something that happens if you're going to stay economically viable, you have to get larger and that's kind of the name of the game in the world today. "
Perry's pasture farrowed hogs are raised outdoors near Armstrong, Missouri and marketed directly to consumers through a producer-owned co-op called patchwork family farms.
Rhonda Perry: "unfortunately these projects come about because we don't have fair and open markets and that's not a good thing. And the environment in which this project took place and others will take place you know is a very negative environment for farmers and rural communities. and its not good that we have to have these types of projects in order to survive but it is good that we have figured out how to do it and we've been creative and we've been able to provide a quality product to consumers."
In addition to philosophical differences in husbandry and marketing, Perry and Johnson are diametrically opposed on a referendum determining the future of the pork checkoff.
This past September, pork producers voted on whether to continue the mandatory program.
Currently, a farmer marketing 1,000 hogs annually, pays about $450.00 into the checkoff fund, which is administered by the national pork board.
Most of the money is earmarked for promotion and research conducted by the national pork producers council, or N.P.P.C.
Larry Ginter: "today is a great day for agriculture because hog farmers across the u.s. are taking a big step towards reclaiming our industry."
In April of 1999, a handful of rural activists, armed with piles of petitions, announced they had more than enough signatures to force a vote on whether the checkoff should be continued.
The campaign for family farms, a coalition of seven grassroots rural groups, gathered signatures for about a year to force the vote.
Larry Ginter: "i want my checkoff dollars back!"
It wasn't the first time the group aired their dissatisfaction with the checkoff or the national pork producers council.
In 1997, the campaign for family farms marched to N.P.P.C. headquarters, where they posted a sign reading "national factory farms council."
Johnson, a past president of the national pork producers council, says promotion is a key reason why producers should vote to continue the checkoff.
Karl Johnson: "I think people need to remember, go back before we had the mandatory check off, back to the mid '80's when we were losing demand quite rapidly, pork was not considered the meat at all to eat and after the check off came in place, we came up with "pork the other white meat" campaign. Through that efforts, we really changed the public's perception of pork. these things have just contributed to the survival, if you will, of us as independent pork producers."
There's little doubt "the other white meat" has been a successful promotional campaign for the pork industry.
a recent study conducted by northwestern university revealed the "other white meat" to be the fifth most recognizable slogan in contemporary advertising history.
Meanwhile, a Texas A study, commissioned by the national pork board, estimated producers reap a 5-to-1 net return ratio on their checkoff dollars.
Rhonda Perry: "what we're here today to say is that this gravy train to the NPPC is coming to a halt..."
Those opposed to the checkoff, cite different numbers. According to the campaign for family farms, pork producers have paid more than half-a-billion dollars into the fund since the program became mandatory in 1986.
During that time the campaign claims 250,000 pork producers, or 2 out of every 3, have gone out of business.
And the hog farmers share of the retail dollar plummeted from 46-cents at the checkoff?s inception to about 21-cents today.
Perry, who favors a voluntary checkoff, claims independent pork producers are paying into a system that yields little if any benefit.
Perry: "we're paying for that. We're paying for their lobbying activities and you know through corporate control of our markets and we?re just saying we're not going to pay anymore, we're not going to pay the checkoff anymore for commodity groups to say they represent us and we're not going to continue to pay into and participate in a system that doesn't work for us at our expense. and you know, by doing that, it actually changes the playing field a little bit."
The pork checkoff was turned down as noted in this press release Jan 11 2001 (I think that's the year)National Pork Producers Council Comments on USDA Announcement of Pork Checkoff... -- re> DES MOINES, Iowa, Jan. 11 /PRNewswire/ --
DES MOINES, Iowa, Jan. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- "We are deeply disappointed and very concerned by USDA's announcement regarding the pork checkoff referendum," said Craig Jarolimek, National Pork Producers Council president. "Instead of a sincere attempt to capture the will of the majority of legitimate pork producers about their checkoff, USDA let political motivation decide the fate of one the most successful commodity programs in American agriculture. USDA unequivocally understands the negative impact termination of the pork checkoff will have on every pork producer in this country," said Jarolimek, a Forest River, N.D., pork producer.
"Again and again producers are citing to us examples of flaws in the referendum voting process," said Karl Johnson, co-chair of the Vote Yes Task Force. "These situations include giving out the wrong voting materials; failing to posts lists of producers who had requested absentee ballots; and failing to post lists of producers who had voted in person, all of which resulted in the disqualification of the voter without their knowledge. Equally as disturbing, other producers were allowed to cast both absentee and in-person ballots or were allowed to cast ballots in violation of referendum rules.
"The checkoff was designed by pork producers, for pork producers, so that all pork producers would pay their fair share and reap the benefits from the checkoff-funded programs," said Johnson, a Mankato, Minn., pork producer. "The progress made with the image, acceptance and demand for pork will slip away, the pork industry could experience accelerated consolidation and coordinated efforts of research, education and information will be lost. In a time when even larger slaughter numbers are expected, as forecasted by USDA's own Quarterly Hogs and Pigs Report, programs providing those tools to producers become even more critical."
At the request of pork producers, the Pork Promotion Research and Consumer Information Act became law in 1985. The pork checkoff funded research, promotion and education programs designed to build a future and create opportunities for pork producers. In September, pork producers had the opportunity to vote on the future of the 14-year pork checkoff program. Approximately $54 million was collected through the pork checkoff in 2000. As required by the Pork Act and Order, 20% of money is returned to state pork associations for investment in state-directed promotion, consumer education and research programs.
SOURCE National Pork Producers Council
PR Newswire (http://s.tt/1yGSy)
A really confusing settlement is here: http://www.pork.org/filelibrary/Checkoff%20Settlement%20Seperation%20Agreement/MOA-govt4.pdf
More cites for MBD: footnote 100 at The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product ... - Brandt - Google Books
This partially available book about the struggle against corporate agriculture (including carbon markets as privatization of the atmosphere) seemed relevant - there was a Google hit but I can't find the quote: … and the echo follows. (2010)
Anyway I thought this was an interesting bit of loose research on agricultural globalism, rural farm politics, professional corporate spies and of course the mysterious Politics of Bacon.