An amendment to the 2024 spending bill for the USDA, FDA, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act questioning farmer-funded checkoff programs has been voted down by the U.S. House. 

Ethan Lane with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says the amendment wouldn’t have directly impacted producers, but it does clear a path for proposed legislation like the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act or OFF Act that want checkoff programs reformed.  “They’re not going to be happy until they completely eliminate agriculture’s ability to promote itself and conduct research and promotion on its individual commodities,” he says.

He tells Brownfield the beef checkoff could be repealed at any time. “By a producer referendum that garners the support of 10% of producers around the country with signatures,” he says.  “That was undertaken two years ago and was opened for 20 months in every sale barn in the country.  The proponents of that petition failed to achieve anywhere near 10% of producers.”

Farm Action Fund vice president Angela Huffman says the OFF Act is the best option to bring transparency and accountability to checkoff programs, but Lane says transparency is already there. “These programs do have a lot of oversight,” he says. “More is always better. There’s nothing wrong with that, and Congressman GT Thompson made that point on the House floor.  But that’s very different than shutting off these critical tools that producers around the country rely on to promote their product.” 

US House Ag Committee Chairman Thompson defended the checkoff programs, saying animal rights activists’ groups are responsible for the opposition.

Lane says, “Whether or not conservatives that are associated with this believe there’s some esoteric objection that makes their quest here valid, the fact is they are playing right into the hands of some of the worst animal rights activists in the country that want to do away with animal agriculture. You cannot separate the two and they should feel deep personal shame for taking this position, in opposition to real farmers and ranchers around the country.”

Thompson said he is willing to discuss oversight of the programs during the development of the 2023 Farm Bill. 

The original amendment proposed by Congresswoman Victoria Spartz (R-IN) stated, “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to carry out any program established under a commodity promotion law (as such term is defined in section 501 of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (7 U.S.C. 7401)).”  It failed 49-377.