Checkoff transparency bill re-introduced

Legislation has been re-introduced in the U.S. House that its author says would bring transparency to checkoff programs.  During a press conference with the Organization for Competitive Markets Wednesday, Nevada Democrat Dina Titus told reporters the USDA has had very lax regulation of checkoff programs. “The money now is often used with association groups to lobby for certain issues that may hurt some of the smaller ranchers and farmers who have to contribute by law.”

Titus says checkoff money is not only used to lobby for large farmers and ranchers, but to advocate against this bill.

Executive Director for OCM Mike Eby says checkoffs started in the early 1980’s to promote product but says it has changed direction.  Now, Eby says they really want to know where the checkoff dollars are being spent.

OCM President Vaughn Meyer says he has seen the corruption and lobbying that was not supposed to be done with checkoff dollars as a member of Cattlemen’s Beef Board and his state’s beef council.  “One example of that lobbying is how these organizations and sub-organizations work together to form a coalition to kill the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) which has cost our producers about 46% of their income for the past seven years.”

Representative Nancy Mace from South Carolina is the Republican co-sponsor.  Titus says it will first go to the House Ag Committee.  She expects a Senate companion bill to be introduced by Senator Cory Booker in the next three weeks. 

Titus says she would like to see the measure pass on its own or as part of the 2023 Farm Bill. Similar efforts have failed in the 115th Congress and during the last Farm Bill negotiations.

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