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Reps. Mike Lawler and Victoria Spartz Applauded by Farm Groups for Backing Checkoff Reform Bill

— October 10, 2023

Congressional leaders aim to reform the USDA Checkoff Program with the OFF Act.

WASHINGTON DC – The Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), Competitive Markets Action (CMA), the National Dairy Producers Organization (NDPO), and the Alabama Contract Poultry Growers Association (ALCPGA), applaud U.S. Reps. Michael Lawler, R-NY, and Victoria Spartz, R-IN, for joining the growing list of supporters of the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act, H.R. 1249/S. 557. The bipartisan legislation aims to reform the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s scandal-ridden Commodity Checkoff Programs which are mandatory programs funded through required fees on producers of various agricultural products. These cosponsorships come on the heels of OCM and CMA’s July fly-in to Washington, D.C. where members of the groups lobbied in support of OFF.

The OFF Act, led by Reps. Nancy Mace, R-SC, and Dina Titus, D-NV, in the U.S. House, and Sens. Mike Lee, R-UT, Cory Booker, D-NJ, Rand Paul, R-KY, Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, and Kristen Gillibrand, D-NY, in the Senate, would create reforms to address transparency issues, apparent conflicts of interest, misuse of funds, and anticompetitive practices. More details can be found here in report originally published by The Daily Caller: “Got Scam?”

“USDA’s commodity checkoff programs remain under fire because of their lack of transparency, misuse of funds, and damaging anti-competitive practices that have decimated American family farmers,” said Marty Irby, President and CEO of Capitol South, LLC, and Competitive Markets Action, and Board Secretary at the Organization for Competitive Markets. “We applaud Reps. Lawler and Spartz for joining the fight and cosponsoring the OFF Act that will reform these swampy and antiquated quasi-governmental agencies.”

“Industrial agriculture is sucking up family farmers’ hard-earned dollars and using those funds against the interests of the very producers it was designed to represent,” said Rep. Nancy Mace, R-SC. “We hope to secure enactment of this legislation as a rider to the upcoming Farm Bill to save our American family farmers in peril.”

“American family farmers are in peril and today, every cent counts,” said Taylor Haynes, President of the Organization for Competitive Markets. “If we’re going to be forced to pay into USDA’s checkoff programs then the very least we should expect is transparency, accountability, and oversight of our hard-earned dollars, and the OFF Act accomplishes just that.”

“The OFF Act was first introduced in the 115th Congress and here we are in the 118th Congress still working for transparency and accountability to reform the USDA’s commodity checkoff programs,” said Deborah Mills, Chairwoman of the National Dairy Producers Organization, and a Board Director at the Organization for Competitive Markets. “This speaks volumes about what frustrates producers who are paying into checkoff programs. The recipients of the checkoff dollars are the greatest proponents of maintaining the status quo. Producers are being denied the basic right to have their questions about their investment answered.”

“Since the inception of these programs, illegal relationships between checkoff boards and lobbying organizations have formed,” said Jonathan Buttram, President of the Alabama Contract Poultry Growers Association at Treasurer at the Organization for Competitive Markets. “Hundreds of millions of dollars have been misused, and these checkoff programs, as they are currently being managed, do not work in the best interests of independent family farmers.”

The USDA’s lax oversight has resulted in collusive and illegal relationships between checkoff boards and lobbying organizations to influence legislation and government action, despite a broad statutory prohibition against these activities. Such lobbying efforts have an anticompetitive effect, benefiting certain producers to the detriment of others, and forcing independent farmers and ranchers to pay into a system that actively works against them.

Image of the Seal of the USDA
Seal of the USDA; image courtesy of the
U.S. Government via Wikimedia Commons,

The effort for checkoff reform is supported by more than 80 farm organizations, including the Organization for Competitive Markets, Competitive Markets Action, the Alabama Contract Poultry Growers Association, National Dairy Producers Organization, and R-CALF, representing over 250,000 family farmers and ranchers, alongside groups like FreedomWorks, the Heritage Foundation, R Street, and others.

The OFF Act is gaining momentum in Congress, and with the support of Members like Lawler and Spartz, reform could finally occur within the USDA’s checkoff programs.

Capitol South, LLC is a Washington DC firm specializing in lobbying and public relations, working at both the state and federal level. Utilizing proven strategies and solutions, the firm’s areas of expertise include the agriculture, animal protection, and environmental sectors.

The Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Lincoln, Nebraska. The foundation of the Organization for Competitive Markets is to fight for competitive markets in agriculture for farmers, ranchers and rural communities. True competition reduces the need for economic regulation. Our mission, and our duty, is to define and advocate the proper role of government in the agricultural economy as a regulator and enforcer of rules necessary for markets that are fair, honest, accessible and competitive for all citizens.

Competitive Markets Action (CMA) is a 501(c)(4) non-profit based in Washington, D.C., that was formed with the mission of shaping policy to promote more regenerative and sustainable agriculture, and competitive markets in the U.S., and to defend against attacks on states’ rights by the federal government. CMA works to raise awareness of the harm caused by multinational conglomerates to the American family farmer, the consumer and our U.S. economy as a whole in an effort to bring about legislative and regulatory reforms.

The Alabama Contract Poultry Growers Association (ALCPGA) is a group of independent poultry producers that have come together to find ways of making our industry stronger, more efficient, and more economical. They have implemented an LP Gas program to lower the cost of gas that each producer purchases. This enables the producer to save on their heating bill, and still produce healthy poultry.

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