Bold Nebraska joined more than 140 organizations, ranchers, farmers and businesses this week to applaud Senators Booker and Lee for filing legislation that, when passed, will stop commodity checkoff program abuses.
Checkoff programs were established to provide equal benefits to all producers of a particular commodity by using funds gained from mandatory assessments to conduct promotion and research for that commodity. Laws establishing checkoff programs explicitly prohibit the use of funds in ways that would directly influence legislation or government action in order to prevent unfair distribution of benefits amongst producers. Despite this aim, misuse of checkoff programs has allowed for inappropriate relationships between checkoff boards and lobbying organizations.
This has created an anticompetitive effect, benefiting certain producers to the detriment of others, and forcing some producers to pay into a system that actively works against them.
The joint letter highlights the major reform provisions of S. 3201, which would end the glaring abuses of the program boards.
The legislation would:
- 1. Stop federally mandated checkoff dollars from being transferred to parties that seek to influence government policies or action relating to agriculture issues.
- 2. Enforce the prohibition against conflicts of interest in contracting and all other decision-making operations of the checkoff program.
- 3. Stop federally mandated funds from being used for anti-competitive programs or from being spent to disparage another commodity in the marketplace.
- 4. Increase transparency of the individual boards’ actions by shedding light on how federal checkoff funds are spent and the purpose of their expenditures.
- 5. Require audits of each program every five years to ensure their activities are in compliance with the law.
- S. 3200: Further, the joint letter requests Congress pass S. 3200, ensuring that in this complicated, multifaceted market, no farmer or rancher is forced to pay into a joint marketing and research program unless they see a benefit to their farm, ranch or business by doing so.