NPPC MONITORING GROUPS
NATIONAL PORK PRODUCERS COUNCIL USES 'CHECKOFF' FUNDS TO
INVESTIGATE SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE AND FAMILY FARMER GROUPS
Monday, Feb. 17, 1997
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
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
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.