Farming groups announce anti-checkoff tour

Legislative Watch: Enough is Enough tour; Bill to promote farming, ranching for veterans; USDA celebrates Earth Day with clean energy funding.

Eric Bohl

April 26, 2024

4 Min Read
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A collection of 16 activist farming groups plans to host five events across the country to raise awareness about issues in farm policy. The “Enough is Enough” tour will run from May 14 through June 4, which is intended to coincide with the House Agriculture Committee’s markup of the next farm bill.

According to a press release by Farm Action, the tour is “in protest of government policies that drive consolidation of the food system into the hands of the largest multinational corporations to the detriment of farmers and ranchers.”

The tour will include a “major focus” on perceived problems with agriculture’s current checkoff system. According to Farm Action, “Checkoff dollars are often funneled to lobbying organizations that represent the world’s largest meatpackers and grain traders, which then work against the interests of the very farmers and ranchers mandated to pay into the programs.”

Angela Huffman, Vice President of Farm Action Fund, said, “The Enough Is Enough Tour is a unified platform for farmers and ranchers to voice the disastrous impacts of the current system on their lives and livelihoods, and to demand reforms that bring prosperity and fair competition to agriculture. Change begins by putting the brakes on the government’s billion-dollar gravy train known as checkoff programs by passing the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act.”

The Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act, or “OFF Act,” is led by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) and Dina Titus (D-Nev.). An amendment to a spending bill containing similar language was offered last year by Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.). The amendment failed 377-49, demonstrating the support of barely more than 10% of the House.

Bill to promote farming, ranching for veterans

A bipartisan team of lawmakers recently introduced legislation to prepare veterans for entering the farming and ranching industries. The “Ag Vets Act” would codify an existing program and direct USDA to award competitive grants to support the mission.

The bill was introduced by Reps. Derrick Van Orden (R-Wis.) and Don Davis (D-N.C.), both of whom are veterans now serving on the House Agriculture Committee. It would provide funds for classroom training, curriculum, workshops, field experiences and other activities.

“Food security is national security,” said Rep. Van Orden. “Given the previous nature of their service, our veterans are exceptionally equipped to handle that responsibility. We must support the hardworking men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces in their transition to becoming hardworking members of society, as well as our farmers and ranchers who are in constant need of dedicated workers to keep the world fed and fueled. By providing grants for veterans to learn the necessary skills to work in the agricultural industry, we are taking care of some of the most pressing challenges for two of the greatest contributors to the success of our nation.”

“As veterans seek to transition from military service to civilian life, it’s important to make available the necessary training for successful careers in agriculture,” said Rep. Davis. “With an agriculture workforce shortage, veterans possess valuable skills that can be transferred to this field. By training veterans for careers in agriculture, we can ensure a continued supply of food and clothing for the American people and beyond.”

The bill is also cosponsored by Reps. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-Ore.), both members of the Agriculture Committee. It has been referred to the House Agriculture and Veterans Affairs Committees for review.

USDA celebrates Earth Day with clean energy funding

On Monday, USDA Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small announced funding for more than 700 clean energy projects across the country. The announcement was made in Erie, Pennsylvania, and was timed to coincide with the celebration of Earth Day.

“The Biden-Harris Administration and USDA are committed to expanding access to modern clean energy systems and fueling options that strengthen the nation’s energy independence while creating good-paying jobs and saving people money,” Deputy Secretary Torres Small said. “As we celebrate Earth Day this year, we are excited to partner with hundreds more family farms and small businesses to address the impacts of climate change, grow the economy and keep rural communities throughout the country strong and resilient.”

Funding for the projects totals $238 million, which will flow through the Rural Energy for America Program and Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program. Approximately 82% of the money will be provided as grants and loans through REAP to help agricultural producers and rural small business owners expand their use of wind, solar, geothermal and small hydropower energy and make energy efficiency improvements. The remainder will fund HBIIP grants to increase the availability of domestic biofuels in 15 states by installing and upgrading infrastructure such as fuel pumps, dispensers and storage tanks.

About the Author(s)

Eric Bohl

Eric Bohl is an agricultural policy leader with extensive experience on Capitol Hill. He served six years as Chief of Staff to Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO) and Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), and previously served as Legislative Director to Rep. Hartzler. During that time, he led her work on the House Agriculture Committee and was influential in efforts to craft the 2014 Farm Bill, as well as handling environmental, energy, transportation and infrastructure, and agricultural trade issues.

Eric’s experience starts at the ground level. His family has deep roots in both animal and row-crop farming going back several generations. This understanding of the unique challenges real farmers face brings valuable perspective to help solve clients’ needs. His midwestern values also allow him to build meaningful relationships with people on both sides of the political aisle and find common-sense solutions that transcend partisan lines.

This approach has continued to be the cornerstone of Eric’s career in grassroots advocacy. He served more than five years as Director of Public Affairs and Advocacy for Missouri Farm Bureau. He was a senior member of the organization’s legislative team and led communications and coalition advocacy efforts, including on the 2018 Farm Bill. His writings on agriculture and rural policy have been published in newspapers across the nation. He serves as First Vice President of the St. Louis Agribusiness Club and is a board member of the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City, two of the nation’s largest and strongest organizations supporting agribusinesses.

Before his career in public policy, Eric was a practicing attorney for nearly five years, focusing on real estate and agricultural law, commercial transactions, and commercial litigation. Eric earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Missouri, graduating from both programs with honors, and served as the Managing Editor of the Missouri Law Review.

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