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Commodity groups, many of which rely on checkoff funding, came out strongly against a farm bill amendment that the House of Representatives will get a chance to debate on checkoff programs.
In a letter Thursday, more than 30 farm and commodity groups criticized the bipartisan amendment by Reps. Dave Brat, R-Va., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. The letter stated the amendment "would impose unnecessary, duplicative and counterproductive burdens on programs funded completely by producers with their own money."
The commodity groups disagreement with the amendment's premise that it would improve transparency and accountability in the checkoff programs. Instead, the farm groups state the amendment "should be soundly rejected because it takes control away from producers and will gut the programs that U.S. agriculture relies on to build demand for our products."
The farm groups added that the Brat/Blumenauer amendment would prohibit research projects at universities, public health associations and producer education associations. The amendment would effectively ban contracts with any group that engages in advocacy - such as commodity organizations that lobby Congress.
The farm groups noted that at a time of low farm incomes, the farm economy can't afford to lose these programs.
Brat issued a news release Thursday noting his amendment with Bluemenauer would establish restrictions and requirements for checkoff programs to ensure greater transparency and accountability.
"The mandatory checkoff program has a specific mission – that is to promote agricultural products – and we want to make sure that it is being used in line with that mission. This bipartisan amendment would require checkoff programs to be subject to necessary public transparency – that way the hardworking farmers and ranchers who are required to pay into these programs know their contributions are being spent in a helpful manner," Brat said. "Payments are not voluntary. In the past, funds from mandatory checkoff programs have been used to lobby against small farmers – we want to make sure since all farmers are required by federal fiat to contribute money to checkoff programs, they should be used in such a way that benefits all."
The full letter from farm groups can be found at: http://www.beefusa.org/…
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