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The latest dustup shows Checkoff programs remain popular with Congress

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The Spartz-Massie Amendment in Congress, the latest attempt to undermine the federal Checkoff Program, failed this week on a 377 to 49 vote with 13 House members not voting.

Reps. Victoria Spartz, R-IN, and Thomas Massie, R-KY, tried unsuccessfully to amend H.R. 4368, an Agriculture Appropriations Act for 2024, which would have impacted the 22 Commodity Checkoff Programs, including the controversial near $50 million Beef Checkoff.

The Beef Checkoff was authorized by Congress by the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985, and in addition to advertising the generic product, it has also funded food safety research to help the industry.  The iconic “Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner” promotional campaign was an early hit for the Beef Checkoff that lives on to this day on social media.

Tuesday night’s House floor debate on the amendment renewed charges that Checkoff programs are too close to some agricultural organizations, like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, causing concern that Checkoff funds could spill into industry lobbying.  

Every time an animal is sold, $2 is supposed to go into the fund.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn “G.T.” Thompson introduced the debate on checkoff reform, saying, “Increasing transparency is not unacceptable. I see the Farm Bill process as the appropriate path forward.”

Rep. Sparta appreciated the vote on the amendment even though it fell far short of passage. “Thank you to the 49 of my colleagues who are willing to stand with Main Street – not K Street or Wall Street.” the Indiana Republican said. 

“The commodity checkoff program has gone rotten,” said Rep. Massie. “Let’s get power back to local farmers and away from D.C. lobbyists.”

The amendment’s defeat brought extensive comments from farms and activists, including the Organization for Competitive Markets, Competitive Markets Action, Alabama Contract Poultry Growers Association, and National Dairy Producers Organization.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association says animal activists attack check-offs because they “believe that the federal government has no right to promote the consumption of animal proteins. . .”

“We applaud the valiant efforts of Reps. Spartz, Massie, and the 47 other Members of the House that had the courage to stand strong against multinational conglomerates and those in the swamp who seek to increase consolidation in the marketplace,” said Taylor Haynes, President of the Organization for Competitive Markets. “The fight for checkoff reform is only just beginning, and we hope those who voted for this amendment will cosponsor the OFF Act and support an audit of the checkoff programs by USDA’s Office of Inspector General.” 

“Dairy producers across America are going out of business daily, and the suicide rate in dairy production is higher than any other sector – including Veterans,” said Deborah Mills, Chairwoman of the National Dairy Producers Organization and a Director at the Organization for Competitive Markets. “We don’t stand a chance against industrial agriculture or a Chinese takeover of our food system without checkoff reform, and I hope Americans wake up before it’s too late.” 

“Many thanks to Reps. Spartz and Massie for having the guts to stand up to those who continue to oppress and try to stamp out the last few independent family farmers in America,” said Jonathan Buttram, President of the Alabama Contract Poultry Growers Association and Treasurer at the Organization for Competitive Markets. “If we’re going to stand a fighting chance at survival, then we must soon see checkoff reform.”

“Since the inception of these programs, illegal relationships between checkoff boards and lobbying organizations have formed,” said Mike Schultz, Founder of the Kansas Cattlemen’s Association and Vice-President at the Organization for Competitive Markets“Hundreds of millions of dollars have been misused, and these checkoff programs, as they are currently being managed, do not work in the best interests of independent family farmers.”

“When Members of Congress like Lauren Boebert, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Ilhan Omar all vote together for reform, you know something must be very, very wrong with this corrupt system,” said Marty Irby, President at Competitive Markets Action and Secretary at the Organization for Competitive Markets. “We applaud both Reps. Spartz, Massie, and their 47 brave colleagues who stood up against the destruction of American food production hope that the Upper Chamber (the Senate) brings resolution to this matter in the Farm Bill.” 

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