A bipartisan duo of senators hope to bring transparency and accountability to the federal government’s checkoff programs.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Cory Booker, D-N.J., re-introduced the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act on March 28. The bill is a direct response to past checkoff program misconduct. Changes proposed by this legislation are designed to improve checkoff board behavior and avoid similar conduct in the future.
The act would:
- Clarify and fortify the prohibition of checkoff programs contracting with organizations that lobby on agricultural policy;
- Establish program standards that prohibit anticompetitive behavior and engaging in activities that may involve a conflict of interest;
- Require transparency through publication of checkoff program budgets and expenditures and means for audits of compliance.
Checkoff programs are mandatory participation programs managed by USDA. These programs are funded by fees on producers of eggs, beef, pork and a multitude of other agricultural products.
"Federal checkoff programs need to start working again for the family farmers and ranchers who are required to pay into them,” Booker said. “This bipartisan legislation will bring much needed reforms by prohibiting conflicts of interest and anti-competitive practices, and requiring more transparency in these programs.”
“Checkoff programs force farmers to pay into a system that sometimes actively works against their interests," Lee said. "On top of that, the boards for these programs have come under fire for a lack of transparency and for misuse of their funds. The Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act is common-sense reform that would help farmers see exactly where the fees they pay are going and ensure that their hard-earned money is not being used against them.”
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