Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act Introduced
By: Sydney Sheffield
The Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act (OFF Act) was introduced by Senators Mike Lee (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The bipartisan bill establishes restrictions and requirements for checkoff programs and prohibits boards established to carry out a checkoff program or a USDA order issued under a checkoff program from entering into a contract or agreement to carry out program activities with a party that engages in activities to influence any government policy or action that relates to agriculture
“For far too long, farmers and ranchers have been forced to pay into these programs only to see their dollars go to trade and lobbying organizations that work against their very existence. USDA has failed to act, so it’s time for Congress to step in and do what’s right for family farmers and ranchers,” said Joe Maxwell, President of the Family Farm Action Alliance.
OFF Act was also introduced into the Senate by Dina Titus (D-NV), along with 8 cosponsors. This is not the first time the OFF Act has been introduced. Lee and Booker have been trying to pass the OFF Act during the 115th and 116th Congress, without success. During the 115th Congress, over 100 farmers and organizations petitioned for the OFF Act to be included in the 2018 Farm Bill. Those in support of the OFF Act express that there is a lack of oversight by the USDA, which has resulted in an illegal relationship between checkoff boards and lobbying organizations that influence legislation and government action.
Under the OFF Act, a board or any affiliates may not engage in any
acts that may involve a conflict of interest.
unfair or deceptive acts or practice.
acts that may be disparaging to, or in any way negatively portray another agricultural commodity or product.
“Checkoff programs force farmers to pay into a system that sometimes actively works against their interests," said Lee. "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.”
Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) is no stranger to fighting against the checkoff programs. For more information on their recent activities, make sure to read the Taking Stock D.C. (TS DC) article “Cattle Antitrust Class Action Lawsuit Proceeds” in this edition of TS DC. “The OFF Act will provide the necessary enforcements to prevent producers’ hard-earned checkoff dollars from being used against them,” R-CALF USA said in a statement. “As an example, a USDA audit reveals that the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association receives nearly 82% of their revenue from mandatory producer-paid beef checkoff funds and, in turn, often supports policies that many cattle producers view as contrary to their interests and their livelihoods.”