Legislation would make checkoffs voluntary

Legislative Preview covers anti-checkoff legislation, USDA presence in Cuba, Republican ag platform, Clinton's VP choice and Congress recess.

P. Scott Shearer, Vice President

July 25, 2016

3 Min Read
Legislation would make checkoffs voluntary

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) has introduced the “Check-Off Program Participation Act” that would make federal checkoff programs voluntary. The legislation would give any farmer or rancher the right to opt-out of USDA checkoff programs.

Lee says, “If farmers and ranchers want to get together and pool their resources to better promote their products, then that is the free market at its best. But as soon as the power of the federal government is used to force people into a program they do not want to participate in, then that is crony capitalism at its worst.”

USDA presence in Cuba starting in August
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that USDA will have personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Havana starting in August to work on issues that will help expand trade opportunities for U.S. agriculture. This will be a three-month assignment while USDA works out the details to make the position permanent.

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s passed fiscal year ’17 agricultural appropriations bill contains $1.5 million for USDA staff to be placed in Cuba. Cuba currently imports $1.8 billion in agricultural products.

Republican agriculture platform attack’s Obama over-reach
The national platform adopted at the Republican convention in Cleveland includes a section addressing agricultural issues. It highlights the importance of agriculture in the United States, but levels a strong attack on the Obama administration on its “over-reach” of regulations and their effects on agriculture, especially the proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration rules, Waters of the U.S. and Endangered Species Act.

The platform states, “This regulatory impulse must be curbed, not on a case-by-case basis, but through a fundamental restructuring of the regulatory process.”

GIPSA: In regards to the proposed USDA GIPSA rules, the platform states, “We oppose the policies pushed by special interest groups seeking to stop or make more expensive our current system of safe, efficient and humane production of meat. Congress has repeatedly had to block the current administration’s draconian rules concerning the marketing of poultry and livestock.”

SNAP and farm bill: The platform calls for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to be removed from being administered by the USDA, thus splitting the nutrition title from the farm bill. The Heritage Foundation supports this proposal because it would be easier to reduce spending in farm and nutrition programs.

The last farm bill needed votes from both urban and rural Congressmen to pass and would have failed if the nutrition title had been removed from the farm bill.

Trade: The platform recognizes the importance of agricultural trade to the U.S. economy with each dollar of agricultural exports generating another $1.27 in business activity.

Trade agreements: The platform states that Congress should not consider any major trade agreement (Trans-Pacific Partnership) during a lame-duck session. The Trump campaign plans to announce in early August a group of agricultural supporters.

Clinton selects Sen. Kaine as VP choice
Hillary Clinton has selected Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) as her running mate for vice president.

Kaine voted for fast-track trade authority and for the 2012 farm bill. He serves on the Senate Armed Services, Foreign Relations and Budget committees. Prior to being elected to the Senate in 2012, he served as governor of Virginia, lieutenant governor of Virginia and mayor of Richmond, Va. He grew up in Kansas City.

Congress has left the building
Congress is now in recess until Sept. 6.

Now is a good time to visit with your member of Congress and Senators as they conduct town hall meetings and visit county and state fairs to let them know your opinion on issues important to agriculture. 

About the Author(s)

P. Scott Shearer

Vice President, Bockorny Group, Inc.

Scott Shearer is vice president of the Bockorny Group Inc., a leading bipartisan government affairs consulting firm in Washington, D.C. With more than 30 years experience in government and corporate relations in state and national arenas, he is recognized as a leader in agricultural trade issues, having served as co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for U.S.-China Trade and co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for Trade Promotion Authority. Scott was instrumental in the passage of China Permanent Normal Trade Relations and TPA. He is past chairman of the USDA-USTR Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Animals and Animal Products and was a member of the USAID Food Security Advisory Committee. Prior to joining the Bockorny Group, Scott served as director of national relations for Farmland Industries Inc., as well as USDA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs (1993-96), serving as liaison for the Secretary of Agriculture and the USDA to Congress.

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