Checkoff reform legislation introduced

Legislative Watch: Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act; White House releases FY '24 budget proposal; USDA proposed budget.

March 10, 2023

4 Min Read

Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Mike Lee (R-UT) are proposing legislation, "Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act," that would reform agricultural checkoff programs. According to the sponsors, the bill is to "prohibit certain wasteful, anti-competitive and deceptive behavior from checkoff boards."

Booker said, "Farmers and Ranchers are being forced to pay into checkoff programs that often advocate against their best interest and support food system consolidation. These programs need transparency and oversight so a farmer can be sure they aren't required to fund their own demise. That is why I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation that will help increase transparency and prohibit conflicts of interest and anti-competitive practices in these programs."

The legislation prohibits a checkoff board from contracting with an organization that engages in lobbying. Also, a checkoff board may not engage in any act that may involve a conflict of interest; anticompetitive activity; unfair or deceptive practice; or disparage or negatively portray another agricultural commodity or product. 

The bill is supported by the American Grassfed Association, Animal Wellness Action, Farm Action Fund, Organization for Competitive Markets, Center for a Humane Economy, National Dairy Producers Organization and R-CALF USA.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association strongly opposes the bill.  NCBA President Todd Wilkinson said, "In 2021, cattle producers overwhelmingly denied a referendum to end the Checkoff with detractors coming nowhere near the required signatures to petition for the termination of this vital program. The Beef Checkoff has a long track record of support among cattle producers. Congress has plenty of work to do that could be far more beneficial to Americans. They should focus in areas of urgent need, rather than wasting time on these unwelcome 'reform efforts' that would only benefit anti-agriculture activists."

The bill was introduced in the House by Representatives Nancy Mace (R-SC) and Dina Titus (D-NV).

White House releases FY '24 budget proposal
President Joe Biden released his fiscal year 2024 budget which proposes increased funding for child care, builds affordable housing, reduces home energy costs, makes college more affordable and increases research funding. The budget proposes to cut projected deficits by increasing taxes on the wealthiest. 

The budget proposes $886.4 billion for defense spending and $841 billion for nondefense discretionary spending.     

The White House says the budget will decrease the deficit by $3 trillion over 10 years by making the tax system fairer and ending special interest giveaways. The tax proposals include:

  • Minimum tax on billionaires – 25% minimum tax on the wealthiest 0.01%.

  • Marginal income tax rate – the top rate would be increased to 39.6%.

  • Corporate income tax rate – increases from 21% to 28%. The rate was 35 % prior to the 2017 tax law. 

  • Child Tax Credit would increase from $2,000 to $3,000 per child.

House and Senate Republican leaders say the proposed tax increases is a nonstarter. Also, the increased spending requests in the budget will face opposition from Republicans as one of their conditions for raising the debt ceiling is spending cuts.   

USDA proposed budget
The budget requests $30.1 billion in discretionary funding for FY ’24 for USDA. This is $3.8 billion over FY '23 or a 14% increase.

Included in the USDA budget:

  • Food Safety and Inspection Service - $1.3 billion ($102 million increase) for the hiring of additional inspectors and public health veterinarians.

  • Climate Resilience Conservation – the budget provides $1.2 billion or an increase of $208 million, to increase conservation adoption and farm income on privately owned land through the Natural Resources Conservation Service. This is to increase voluntary adoption of conservation practices that sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with agricultural production.  

  • Agricultural Research – over $4 billion is proposed for agricultural research, education and outreach, an increase of $299 million. The budget notes that China is now the largest funder of agricultural research and development in the world, surpassing the U.S. and the EU.

  • Broadband – increase funding for USDA's ReConnect grant and loan program by $400 million.

  • Cover Crops – make permanent USDA's $5 per acre crop insurance subsidies program for farmers who plant cover crops.

  • School Lunch - $15 billion over 10 years to allow additional states to participate in the Community Eligibility Provision to provide free school meals to over an additional 9 million children.

  • SNAP and WIC – fully funds the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program and Women, Infants, and Children programs.

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