WASHINGTON – Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced two bills to reform agricultural checkoff programs. The bills will make checkoff programs more responsive to contributors and voluntary rather than mandatory. Checkoffs are mandatory Department of Agriculture fees assessed on a per-unit basis that fund boards designed to promote the commodity as a whole. However, checkoff funds are frequently coopted against the interests of some or even a majority of contributors. Countless farmers, ranchers, and other producers have seen their checkoff dollars squandered or even used against their interests. These bills would prohibit certain wasteful, anti-competitive, and deceptive behavior from checkoff board and make checkoff participation voluntary.
Of the bill, Sen. Lee said, “Dozens of checkoff programs impose a cost on farmers, ranchers, and others in exchange for programs that are supposed to benefit contributors. Unfortunately, though foreseeably, obligatory checkoff contributions are often not used in the best interest of all contributors. These common-sense reforms will ensure that checkoff funds promote and protect those who choose to contribute.”
Joe Maxwell, President of Family Farm Action said, “We are grateful for Senator Lee's leadership on reining in the abusive practices of the commodity checkoff programs.
"For far too long, farmers and ranchers have been forced to pay into these programs only to see their dollars go to trade and lobbying organizations that work against their very existence. It is time to restore transparency and accountability to the checkoff programs."
Mike Eby, Executive Director of the Organization for Competitive Markets, said, “Commodity checkoffs have proven time and time again they are illegally using federal tax dollars to lobby Congress in support of policies that hurt family farmers. OCM applauds Sens. Lee, Booker, Paul, Warren, and Gillibrand for reintroducing the OFF Act that would create a system of checks and balances for oversight, transparency, and accountability in these programs.”
Sen. Lee is joined by Sens. 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.