Today the U.S. House of Representatives considered an amendment introduced by Representatives Victoria Spartz (R-IN) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) to the Fiscal Year 2024 Agriculture Appropriations bill (H.R.4368) that would have prevented the U.S. Department of Agriculture from implementing checkoff programs.
In last night’s debate on this amendment, Spartz and Massie — both farmers themselves — called out the lack of transparency and accountability in government checkoff programs, as well as the abuse of checkoff dollars by industry lobbying organizations.
While the amendment did not pass, House Ag Committee Chairman Thompson opened the door for a debate on checkoff reform: “Increasing transparency is not unacceptable. I just see the farm bill process as the appropriate path forward for that.”
In response, Farm Action Fund Vice President Angela Huffman issued the following statement:
“We share the Representatives’ frustration with corrupt checkoff programs. For too long, checkoffs have operated without adequate oversight by the USDA, facilitating the transfer of money and power from farmers to lobbyists for the world’s largest meatpackers and grain traders.
“We believe the path to reforming these government programs is through a separate legislative measure: including the common sense reforms of the bipartisan Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act in the upcoming farm bill.
“The OFF Act would not end the checkoff, but simply bring the minimum level of transparency and accountability one would expect for a $1 billion government program.
“By restoring integrity and transparency to the checkoff, the OFF Act will ensure that no farmer or rancher has to pay into a system that actively works against their interests.”
The bipartisan OFF Act is supported by more than 60 farm groups representing hundreds of thousands of farmers and ranchers.