A federal court in the District of Columbia has dismissed, for lack of standing,
a lawsuit filed by the Humane Society of the United States and several other
plaintiffs against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), challenging the
secretary’s approval of the National Pork Board’s purchase of the slogan “Pork,
The Other White Meat” from the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). The
Humane Soc’y of the U.S. v. Vilsack, No. 12-1582 (D.D.C., decided
September 25, 2013). Details about the lawsuit appear in Issue 455 of this

According to the court, the individual pork farmer plaintiff lacked standing
because he could not show that changes to the advertising funded by the
pork checkoff program following the board’s purchase and retirement of the
slogan affected him financially. In fact, since the board began advertising with
the slogan “Pork: Be Inspired,” the net return on investment to pork producers
rose from $13.8 to $17.4. While the farmer alleged that his return would
have been even higher if the money had been spent on “other legitimate
programs,” the court found his argument “entirely conjectural and unsupported
by facts.” The farmer also claimed that the NPPC’s lobbying, funded
by the purchase, was contrary to his interests and harmed his operations.
The court said that he failed to provide any facts to support an inference that
NPPC’s lobbying actually harmed his operations. The court also found that the
individual plaintiff could show neither causation nor redressability.

For similar reasons, the court concluded that the organizational plaintiffs could not establish standing either on their members’ behalf or as organizations. As to the plaintiffs’ organizational interest, the court said that their alleged harm—“having to devote significant resources to counter ‘NPPC’s checkoff-funded lobbying activities’”—is not a cognizable injury because “lobbying is what these organizations do, so being prompted to do it can hardly qualify as an injury that confers constitutional standing.” And “the fact that they have decided to redirect some of their resources from one legislative agenda to another is insufficient to give them standing.”



About The Author

For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.

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