Sens. Lee, Booker Introduce Commodity Check Off Reform Bill [UPH Wire]

*FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE*
Thursday, July 14, 2016

*Sens. Lee, Booker Introduce Commodity Check Off Reform Bill*

WASHINGTON – Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced on
Wednesday‎* S. 3201, the Commodity Checkoff Program Improvement Act of 2016*,
a measure intended to bring much needed transparency and accountability to
the federal government’s commodity check off programs.

Checkoff programs are mandatory participation programs under the US
Department of Agriculture. These programs are funded through compulsory
fees on producers of eggs, beef, pork and a multitude of other agricultural
products. The programs and associated boards have received criticism in the
past for a lack of transparency, apparent conflicts of interest, misuse of
their funding and anticompetitive behavior.

“Last year a FOIA request uncovered some troubling emails between the
American Egg Board and top executives in the egg industry,” Lee said. “This
was a classic case of Big Government and Big Business working together to
squeeze out smaller rivals and squelch innovation.”

The American Egg Board CEO at the center of those emails has since
resigned, but questions remain about the board’s activities.

“When checkoff programs engage in anticompetitive activity, it is a threat
to a dynamic and informed free marketplace,” Booker said. “This bipartisan
legislation will help increase transparency and restore trust in checkoff
program practices.”

This bill is a direct response to the egg board scandal and past checkoff
program misconduct, and the changes proposed by this legislation are
designed to improve checkoff board behavior and avoid similar conduct in
the future.

To improve the practices of checkoff programs, the Commodity Checkoff
Program Improvement Act would:
· Prohibit checkoff programs from contracting with any organization
that lobbies on agricultural policy;
· Prohibit employees and agents of the checkoff boards from
engaging in activities that may involve a conflict of interest;
· Prohibit checkoff programs from engaging in anticompetitive
activity, unfair or deceptive acts or practices, or any act that may be
disparaging to another agricultural commodity or product;
· Require transparency through publication of checkoff program
budgets and expenditures;
· Require periodic audits by the USDA Inspector General for
compliance with the Improvement Act; and
· Require a GAO audit of check off program compliance and a report
with further recommendations related to checkoff programs.

*Supporters of the Commodity Checkoff Program Improvement Act of 2016
include:*
American Agricultural Movement, Inc.
American Grassfed Association
BioRegional Strategies
Bold Nebraska
Buckeye Quality Beef
Cattle Producers of Louisiana
Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association
Community Food and Justice Coalition
Contract Poultry Growers Association of the Virginias
Family Farm Defenders
Farm Aid
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
Food Policy Council of San Antonio
Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska
Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
Land Stewardship Project
Missouri Rural Crisis Center
Missouri’s Best Beef Co-Op.
Murray County, Oklahoma, Independent Cattlemen’s Association
National Family Farm Coalition
National Farmers Organization
Nebraska Women Involved in Farm Economics
Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA)
Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM)
Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association
Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM)
R-CALF USA
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
Slow Food USA
Socially Responsible Agricultural Project
South Agassiz Resource Council
South Dakota Stockgrowers Association
Spokane County Cattlemen, WA
Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF)
Women Involved in Farm Economics

You can read the full text of the bill here

.

*Communications Director*
Conn Carroll
Conn_Carroll@lee.senate.gov
202-224-5444

*Press Secretary*
Emily Long
Emily_Long@lee.senate.gov
202-224-3904

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