OCM, farm groups lobby for passage of commodity check off reform bill
Two bills that would restructure and increase transparency for agriculture checkoff programs have been reintroduced into the Senate.
The Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act (OFF) and the Voluntary Checkoff Bill is also supported by Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul (R-KY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) as cosponsors on the OFF Act, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) as a cosponsor of the Voluntary Checkoff bill.
Organization for Competitive Markets board member and executive director with Animal Wellness Action Marty Irby says check off dollars are being misused and not representing the interest of producers. “Funds are being illegally used to lobby and there’s been a ton of corruption in many of these checkoffs.”
The bills would make checkoff programs more responsive to contributors and voluntary instead of mandatory.
OCM Executive Director Mike Eby says while USDA requires checkoff fees, the agency has dropped the ball reporting to Congress where the money is being used. “But here you have USDA not even following through with their obligation,” Ebys says. “That’s a major concern.”
Joe Arens is with the National Dairy Producers Association and is a Michigan Dairy farmer. “We feel the checkoff over the last 38 years has ventured way off course from its original intent which was to promote, to educate and to do research for the farmer’s benefit,” he says. “They pay the bill.”
OCM board member and Kansas Cattle producer Mike Schultz says check off dollars need to benefit paying members and not other organizations. “We’ve not done a very good job with the checkoff being involved where we can get representation of the cattle industry. They represent the beef industry quite well,” He says. “They capitalize the majority of the money going to them and I’d like to see that done.”