Washington, DC – Today Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-NV) and Congresswoman Nancy Mace (R-SC) introduced bipartisan legislation targeting the anticompetitive practices of agriculture lobbyists and big corporations to enhance accountability and transparency in the agricultural industry.
The Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act refines the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s checkoff programs by closing a loophole that allows taxpayer dollars to be used for lobbying. The programs were established by the federal government and are funded through compulsory fees on producers of milk, eggs, beef, and other agricultural products so that members of the agricultural industry could pool their financial resources for promotional and research purposes. Regrettably, lax oversight at the federal level has allowed harmful relationships between the boards governing these programs and the agriculture lobby to develop.
Those lobbyists have worked to benefit certain producers to the detriment of others, pushed Congress to enact legislation harmful to animal welfare, and enabled conflicts of interest. The OFF Act targets the influence of agriculture lobbyists and prohibits anticompetitive behavior by preventing USDA checkoff programs from paying organizations that lobby on agricultural issues, banning activities that involve a conflict of interest, and requiring audits to ensure compliance.
“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.”
“Industrial agriculture is sucking up family farmers’ hard-earned dollars and using those funds against the interests of the very producers it was designed to represent,” said Rep. Mace. “The support for the OFF Act is overwhelming, with more than 80 farm organizations, representing over 250,000 family farmers and ranchers, cheering on the measure alongside groups like Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy. We hope to secure enactment of this legislation as a rider to the upcoming Farm Bill to save our American family farmers in peril.”
“American family farmers are in peril and today, every cent counts,” said Taylor Haynes, President of the Organization for Competitive Markets. “If we’re going to be forced to pay into USDA’s checkoff programs then the very least we should expect is transparency, accountability, and oversight of our hard-earned dollars, and the OFF Act accomplishes just that.”
“The OFF Act was first introduced in the 115th Congress and here we are in the 118th Congress still working for transparency and accountability to reform the USDA’s commodity checkoff programs,” said Deborah Mills, Chairwoman of the National Dairy Producers Organization. “This speaks volumes about what frustrates producers who are paying into checkoff programs. The recipients of the checkoff dollars are the greatest proponents of maintaining the status quo. Producers are being denied the basic right to have their questions about their investment answered.”
“We applaud Reps. Mace and Titus for their tireless work and leadership on the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act,” said Marty Irby, Executive Director at Animal Wellness Action. “USDA’s commodity checkoff programs remain under fire because of their lack of transparency, misuse of funds, and damaging anti-competitive practices that have bankrupted millions of American farmers.”
The full text of the legislation can be found here.