Western South Dakota's Only Ranch Station

Ag groups lobby for passage of commodity checkoff reform bills

WASHINGTON, D.C. – 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.

South Dakota rancher and president of Organization for CompetitIve Markets (OCM), Vaughn Meyer, Reva, SD said at an earlier press conference,   “As a producer from South Dakota and as president of OCM this is the first step in regaining our checkoff and bringing it back to what it was intended for.”

Vaughn, a past director in both the pro-checkoff South Dakota Beef Council and the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, says, “I’ve seen the ills of our beef checkoff.  I’ve seen the corruption. I’ve seen the lobbying. Our beef checkoff has been hijacked.”

Other lawmakers also weighed-in on the reintroduced bills. “The USDA’s Checkoff Program was supposed to ensure American farmers of all sizes could promote their products across the nation and across the globe,” said Rep. Nancy Mace, (R-S.C). “For years now, small farmers have seen their hard-earned money used to fund the lobbying efforts of massive, multi-billion-dollar agriculture conglomerates. This program has devolved from producing ‘Got milk?’ ads to creating taxpayer-funded lobbying firms, and it needs to stop.”

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.”

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