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Reps. Mace and Titus Introduce New Bill to Reform Checkoff Programs

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Rep. Nancy Mace and Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nevada) have introduced a new bill aimed at reforming checkoff programs under the US Department of Agriculture, the Opportunities for Faf programs under the US Department of Agriculture, the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act, or OFF Act. 

This legislation also has support from Senators Mike Lee, Cory Booker, Rand Paul, Elizabeth Warren, and Kirsten Gillibrand.

According to Rep. Mace’s office, checkoff programs are mandatory participation programs funded through compulsory fees on producers of various agricultural products, such as milk, eggs, beef, and more. While some of these programs were established by Congress, others were established under the Secretary of Agriculture’s authority.

Despite their widespread use, Rep. Mace’s offiec says these programs and their associated boards have faced criticism for a lack of transparency, apparent conflicts of interest, misuse of their funding, anticompetitive behavior, and other related issues.

“We need to make sure these programs are operating in the best interest of our farmers and the agricultural industry as a whole,” said Rep. Mace. “This bill will help to address the transparency issues raised and ensure that checkoff programs are fulfilling their intended purpose.”

Rep. Titus agrees.

“With too many Nevadans bearing the brunt of higher food prices, big ag corporations should be working to keep costs low, not lining their own pockets by promoting anticompetitive practices,” said Rep. Titus. “I’m pushing this bipartisan legislation to increase federal oversight, prevent conflicts of interest, and stop ag lobbyists from squeezing small producers out of business.”

Specifically, the OFF Act would:
  • Prohibit checkoff programs from contracting with any organization that lobbies on agricultural policy
  • Prohibit employees and agents of the checkoff boards from engaging in activities that may involve a  conflict of interest.
  • Establish uniform standards for checkoff programs that prohibit anti competitive activity, unfair or deceptive acts, or any practice that may be disparaging to another agricultural commodity or product.
  • To ensure further transparency, the bill requires the publication of checkoff program budgets and expenditures. Additionally, periodic audits of compliance with the act by the USDA Inspector General will be required, and a GAO audit of checkoff board compliance.
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