The Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) joined a coalition of commodity groups in writing a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries in opposition of the Spartz Amendment to the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2024.
The proposed amendment states:
None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to carry out any program established under a commodity promotion law (as such term is defined in section 501 of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (7 U.S.C. 7401)).
In other words, this poison pill amendment would eliminate funding for USDA to administer national agriculture promotion programs. ASA and MSG believe producer checkoff programs are a vital tool in building new demand and educating on issues that impact the future of farming.
“There are no taxpayer dollars used to implement checkoffs, and no appropriated dollars are used to oversee,” the letter states. “Further, contrary to claims made by proponents of this amendment, checkoffs are regularly audited for transparency and compliance and this amendment would do nothing to increase transparency measures at USDA. We urge opposition to the Spartz Amendment and request a ‘NO’ vote on its adoption.”
In the Senate, Mike Lee (R-UT) has filed the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act as an amendment to the Senate “minibus” appropriations package, which includes the Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill. While billed as “checkoff reform” aimed at enhancing accountability, the proposed OFF Act is problematic in that it fails to recognize the extensive existing oversight of both USDA and the organizations that administer agriculture checkoffs. It prohibits checkoff organizations from providing any funds to, or contracting with, parties that engage in activities for the purposes of influencing government policy or similar “lobbying” activity that relates to agriculture, even if the activities funded by the checkoff are not lobbying (i.e., research, market development and promotion).
During a September visit to Washington, D.C., MSGA leaders urged Minnesota’s congressional delegation to defend the checkoff program by highlighting the myriad benefits the checkoff brings to farmers.
“The soybean checkoff is working, and we want everyone to know that,” MSGA Vice President Darin Johnson said during a meeting with Rep. Michelle Fischbach. “For every dollar invested in the soy checkoff, growers see a $12.34 return on investment.”
Growers can urge their senators to oppose the OFF Act by visiting the Soy Action Center.