House Bill Introduced to Oversee USDA Checkoffs

A bill introduced last week in Congress would overhaul current USDA regulatory oversight of checkoff programs.

Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) has introduced legislation titled “The Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act” (OFF) into the House of Representatives. The Hagstrom Report says it’s designed to create financial controls and transparency for the USDA agricultural checkoff programs.

“The USDA’s checkoff programs have operated without sufficient oversight for far too long,” said Titus. “This legislation brings much-needed accountability and transparency.”

Titus feels family farmers shouldn’t be forced to pay into organizations that may sometimes lobby against their interests and threaten animal welfare.

Congress authorized the commodity checkoff programs that allow farmers to bill themselves to pay into research and promotion programs for their particular commodities. However, groups backing the legislation say that organizations like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and other groups get access to these funds and don’t use them for their intended purposes. Marty Irlby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action, said, “USDA’s runaway checkoff programs must be held accountable. Family farmers have a right to know where their hard-earned dollars are being spent.”

Earlier this year, four senators introduced companion legislation into the Senate.