New Checkoff bill would keep funds away from lobbying groups
Representative Dina Titus (NV-01) and Representative Nancy Mace (SC-01) introduced the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act to add accountability and transparency to reform the USDA’s checkoff programs.
Washington, DC – On June 30, 2021, Representative Dina Titus (NV-01) and Representative Nancy Mace (SC-01) introduced the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act to add accountability and transparency to reform the USDA’s checkoff programs.
Checkoff programs were established by the federal government as mechanisms for agricultural industries to pool money for common promotional and research purposes. They are funded through compulsory fees on producers of milk, eggs, beef, and a multitude of other agricultural products.
Lax oversight by the USDA has allowed harmful relationships between checkoff boards and lobbying organizations to foster. Such advocacy efforts – funded by mandatory fees – benefit certain producers to the detriment of others.
The OFF Act would prevent USDA checkoff programs from paying organizations that lobby on agricultural issues, prohibit anticompetitive behavior, ban activity that involves a conflict of interest, and require audits to ensure compliance.
“This legislation will bring much-needed accountability and transparency to USDA’s checkoff programs which have operated without sufficient oversight for far too long,” said Congresswoman Titus. “Family farmers should not be forced to pay into organizations that sometimes lobby against their interests and threaten animal welfare.”
“The USDA’s Checkoff Program was supposed to ensure American farmers of all sizes could promote their products across the nation and across the globe,” said Congresswoman Mace. “For years now, small farmers have seen their hard-earned money used to fund the lobbying efforts of massive, multi-billion dollar agriculture conglomerates. This program has devolved from producing ‘Got milk?’ ads to creating taxpayer-funded lobbying firms, and it needs to stop.”
“USDA’s runaway checkoff programs must be held accountable, and family farmers have a right to know where their hard-earned dollars are being spent,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action. “The checkoffs remain under fire because of their lack of transparency, misuse of funds, and damaging anti-competitive practices that have bankrupted millions of American farmers.”
–Congresswoman Dana Titus
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