Rep. Titus Introduces Legislation to Make USDA Checkoff Programs More Accountable
U.S. Representative Dina Titus, 1st Congressional District of Nevada
via Press Release - January 9, 2020
Washington, D.C. – Today Representative Dina Titus of Nevada’s First Congressional District introduced the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act to add accountability and transparency to reform the USDA’s checkoff programs.
Checkoff programs were established by the federal government as mechanisms for agricultural industries to pool money for common promotional and research purposes. They are funded through compulsory fees on producers of milk, eggs, beef, and a multitude of other agricultural products.
Lax oversight by the USDA has allowed harmful relationships between checkoff boards and lobbying organizations to foster. Such advocacy efforts – funded by mandatory fees – benefit certain producers to the detriment of others and have pushed Congress to enact legislation that harms the welfare of animals.
The legislation, H.R. 5563, would prevent USDA checkoff programs from paying organizations that lobby on agricultural issues, prohibit anticompetitive behavior, ban activity that involves a conflict of interest, and require audits to ensure compliance.
“The USDA’s checkoff programs have operated without sufficient oversight for far too long - and this legislation will bring much-needed accountability and transparency,” said Congresswoman Titus (NV-1). “Family farmers should not be forced to pay into organizations that sometimes lobby against their own interests and threaten animal welfare.”
“USDA’s runaway checkoff programs must be held accountable, and family farmers have a right to know where their hard-earned dollars are being spent,” said Animal Wellness Action Executive Director Marty Irby. “The checkoffs remain under fire because of their lack of transparency, misuse of funds, and damaging anti-competitive practices that have bankrupted millions of American farmers.”