Issue in Focus
Mar 29 2019
“Oh, brewers of Miller Lite, we received your corn syrup by mistake,” a king accompanied by a blue knight emblazoned with “Bud Light” shouts to a man in a castle tower.
“That’s not our corn syrup, we received our shipment this morning,” the Miller Lite brewer replies. “Try the Coors Light castle,” the Miller Lite brewer continues, “they also use corn syrup.”
And with that ten second exchange aired during Super Bowl Sunday, a multi-million dollar plan for a joint beer promotion campaign came to end. For more than a year, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Molson Coors Brewing, Heineken and Constellation Brands had been in discussions over a united television campaign to promote beer consumption in the United States.
But Bud Light’s competitors were so upset over the corn syrup ad that the pulled the plug on the joint beer promotion campaign entirely.
And that is how the free market is supposed to work. Companies are free to work together towards common goals when they want, but they are also free to go their own way if they feel it is in their best interest.
But this isn’t true for all sectors of the economy. Since 1937, the Agriculture Department has forced certain agricultural producers to pay a per-unit fee for each unit of a commodity produced to a government sponsored board made up of government approved producers of that commodity.
The boards then use this money for marketing campaigns and lobbying activities. If you have ever seen a “Got milk?” ad or “Pork, the other white meat,” you’ve seen these corporatist boards at work.
Unfortunately, these programs do not receive proper oversight from the USDA and they have become rife with waste and abuse.
Some boards have used their funds to lobby the federal government against innovative new food products. Others have misused funds and refused to comply with federal transparency laws.
In short, these programs are in desperate need of reform.
That is why I introduced two bills this week to reform these programs. The first, the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act (OFF Act) would clarify the prohibition on checkoff program lobbying, prohibit anticompetitive behavior by checkoff programs, and mandate transparency through published audits.
The second, the Voluntary Checkoff Program Participation Act, would simply give farmers and ranchers the freedom not to participate in any government mandated checkoff program.
These common-sense reforms will not be convenient to the giants in the agriculture industry – at least not the ones using checkoff dollars to rig the system in their favor. But they will help farmers – and particularly the little guys – to see exactly where the fees they pay are going and ensure that their hard-earned money is not being used against them.