NCBA co-leads a coalition to fight the ag amendment
During an episode of the Beltway Beef podcast, dated Sept. 14, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane provided an update on Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-UT) attempt to add the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act to the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Bill.
In February, Sen. Lee led a bipartisan effort to reform agricultural checkoff programs, joined by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), including U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) and Dina Titus (D-NV), stating the bill would make checkoff programs more responsive to producers who are required to contribute to them.
OFF Act details
“Lee has had a long-standing issue with commodity checkoff programs, and views these programs as a tax, not producers’ dollars promoting a commodity,” Lane states.
According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), “The OFF Act is a bill to establish restrictions and requirements for checkoff programs, which are programs overseen by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to promote and provide research and information for a particular agricultural commodity without reference to specific producers or brands and shall publish and make available for public inspection all budgets and disbursements of funds.”
“Checkoff programs already have transparency. Anyone can go to the web and view where money has been appropriated,” Lane emphasizes.
The CRS also states the bill 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 engaging in activities to influence any government policy or action which relates to agriculture.
Lane continues, “The OFF Act can be harmful to producers as it is a bag of mixed messaging points and adds restrictions on who can contract with the Beef Checkoff, or any other commodity industry, to engage with subject matter experts to perform research.”
“It takes the voice away from producers and empowers other parts of the retail chain to make marketing decisions in the best interest of the given industry,” he adds.
Anti-agriculture activism hits the U.S. Senate
“Since the bill was introduced, Lee has been joined by animal rights activists who are pushing to pass the OFF Act under the pretext of bringing accountability to federal agencies and derail animal agriculture,” Lane states.
He notes, although checkoff programs have been challenged in the past, this year’s challenge is different because Lee is receiving support from a collection of animal rights groups who aspire to derail animal agriculture.
Lane explains, “The OFF Act would harm U.S. producers, and now organizations such as Farm Action and the Organization for Competitive Markets are the funding sources behind the OFF Act.”
“This is what animal rights groups want to do – remove the voice of the producer,” he adds. “In the months leading up to the Congressional vote, a highly sophisticated action plan has been introduced by these groups to confuse staffers as they try to figure out fact from fiction, and the mass funding for anti-meat agendas has been seen around Capitol Hill on billboards and in ads on social media platforms.”
U.S. House votes on ag amendment
On Oct. 1, NCBA Senior Director of Government Affairs Tanner Beymer joined the Beltway Beef podcast and discussed the Agriculture Appropriation Bill failure.
“It’s been a very interesting 118th Congress, where three appropriation bills were passed but one did not – the Agriculture Appropriation Bill,” Beymer states. “U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) introduced the controversial anti-checkoff amendment, part of the Ag Appropriation Bill, which was an amendment attacking the Beef Checkoff.”
“What made Spartz’s amendment so puzzling to most in agriculture is no federal funds are used in any of the commodity checkoff programs. All funds used are contributed by the producers of the commodity in question,” he notes. “The amendment did not have a lot of teeth, but it closely related to what we have been talking about in regards to the OFF Act.”
Beymer further explains although the OFF Act is led by radical animal rights groups, numerous state officials and other national supporters, as well as thousands of U.S. cattle producers, spoke out against Spartz’s amendment.
According to the NCBA website, a letter was sent to Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) from NCBA alongside 129 leading state and national livestock, crop and forestry organizations voicing their opposition to Spartz’s anti-checkoff amendment attacking commodity checkoff programs, which are industry-led organizations existing to promote agricultural products and support U.S. farmers and ranchers.
“The attack on checkoff programs did not work, and the amendment to the agriculture appropriation failed 49 to 377,” he explains. “Animal rights groups have been utilizing large budgets campaigning for this anti-checkoff bill but don’t have one important thing – grassroots producers.”
“We asked our members to contact Congress directly, and within 24 hours, over 1,600 letters went out to Congress voicing their concerns,” he adds. “Not only did cattle producers voice their concern, but many other commodity industries did as well.”
The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2024 failed to pass 191 to 237, which was not surprising to many as the bill was on thin ice due to issues with other bill topics.
Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.