The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is urging House lawmakers to oppose an amendment to the 2018 Farm Bill that would gut the federally authorized commodity research and promotion programs, commonly known as checkoffs.
NPPC joined more than 40 agricultural organizations on a letter sent to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., asking that House members vote against the rider being offered by Reps. Dave Brat, R-Va., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.
“The amendment is ill-conceived, too broad and poorly drafted,” said NPPC President Jim Heimerl, a pork producer from Johnstown, Ohio. “It would have far-reaching, detrimental impacts on the marketing of and research for agricultural commodities and ultimately harm all farmers and ranchers. It addresses a problem that doesn’t exist and does so in a manner that would result in significant, long-lasting harm to American agriculture and free enterprise.”
Among other things, the amendment would prohibit checkoffs and their employees and “agents” from engaging “in any act that may involve a conflict of interest, anticompetitive activity, unfair or deceptive act or practice …” Significantly, it also would prohibit checkoffs from contracting with any entity with an agricultural interest before the federal government.
Checkoffs routinely contract with university researchers, private entities, organizations and individuals to, for example, conduct research on food safety and nutrition and to market and promote their respective commodities.
Since 1966, Congress has authorized 22 industry-funded research and promotion boards, or checkoffs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service oversees the checkoffs to ensure fiscal accountability and program integrity. The checkoffs annually fund more than $1 billion of research, promotion and consumer education programs.
“Like the other checkoffs, the Pork Checkoff provides tremendous value to our producers through research on swine diseases, genetics, better production methods and through its pork promotion efforts,” Heimerl said. “At a time when it seems like everyone is going to the government with his or her hand out, American agriculture, through the checkoffs, is funding its own programs. The checkoffs are funded by producers for producers.”