Checkoff reform momentum grows ahead of next farm bill.
Washington, D.C. — On October 26, farm groups including Farm Action Fund, American Grassfed Association, Competitive Markets Action, Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming, and R-CALF USA applauded seven members of Congress for their new co-sponsorship of H.R.1249/S.557, the bipartisan Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act, which would restore accountability and transparency to agricultural checkoff programs.
Introduced in the House by Representatives Nancy Mace (R-SC-1) and Dina Titus (D-NV-1), and in the Senate by Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), the OFF Act’s newest co-sponsors include Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-12), Oversight and Accountability Ranking Member Jamie Raskin (D-MD-08), Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-07), and Representatives Nanette Diaz Barragàn (D-CA-44), Jared Huffman (D-CA-02), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).
In total the OFF Act now has more bipartisan support than in any previous Congress, with 15 co-sponsors in the House and six in the Senate.
Recently, debate over the Fiscal Year 2024 Agriculture Appropriations bill has increased interest in oversight of the 22 government-mandated checkoff programs, long plagued by accusations of corruption and misuse of funds. This wave of new sponsors is the latest development in the rising momentum for their reform.
“The OFF Act is backed by more than 200,000 American family farmers who are sick and tired of seeing their own checkoff dollars put farmers out of business,” said Representative Mace. “We are grateful to our colleagues in Congress for supporting this legislation and hope to include the measure in the upcoming farm bill.”
“For too long, producers in Nevada and beyond have been forced to pay into a checkoff program with little oversight, supporting the interests of Big Ag corporations and lobbyists in Washington instead of hardworking farmers and ranchers across the nation,” said Representative Titus. “My colleagues and I are pushing for critical federal reform in the bipartisan OFF Act, ending the exploitation of farmers and promoting accountability in our food system.”
The bipartisan OFF Act is supported by more than 60 farm groups representing hundreds of thousands of farmers and ranchers. Farm groups are applauding the commitment these members of Congress have made to a more fair food system.
“Checkoff programs have been corrupted and turned into another mechanism of control over our food system by powerful corporations,” said Angela Huffman, vice president of Farm Action Fund. “The OFF Act’s sponsors are standing up for farmers and ranchers, ensuring they will no longer be forced to pay into a system that actively works against them.”
“Currently, American family farmers doing pasture based production have no say over who gets our checkoff money,” said Carrie Balkcom, Executive Director of the American Grassfed Association. “The OFF Act would give us a seat at the table when the spending of these funds are allocated.”
“USDA’s scandal-ridden checkoff programs have long been corrupted by the swamp and it’s time for Congress to take action and help save the last remaining independent family farms in America,” said Marty Irby, president at Competitive Markets Action and board secretary at the Organization for Competitive Markets. “We applaud the new co-sponsors of the OFF Act for standing up to the special interests that control the checkoffs and supporting the family farmers whose backs this country was built upon.”
“Wyoming independent cattlemen have long asked for reform of the current checkoff program which has no accountability to those producers who are forced to pay the checkoff, “ said Judy McCullough, director and secretary of the Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming. “NCBA receives the lion’s share of the checkoff dollars and historically has supported the packers’ positions and fought legislation (like mCOOL) that benefits the cattle producers. Therefore we support the OFF Act being a part of the farm bill.”
“Ranchers deserve Congress’ help in bringing transparency and accountability to these government-mandated programs that have extracted wealth from their farms and ranches and placed it into the hands of lobbying organizations that continually fight against their interests,” said Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA.
Farm Action Fund is a farmer-led organization fighting corporate monopolies in agriculture. We envision a fair, sustainable, and healthy food system that empowers farmers, ranchers, and rural communities to feed their neighbors.