Lincoln, NE: The Organization for Competitive Markets expressed its full support for an amendment to the 2012 Farm Bill that would make all mandatory checkoff programs voluntary.

The amendment, proposed by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), reads: “No program to promote and provide research and information for a particular agricultural commodity without reference to specific producers or brands (commonly known as a ‘check-off program’) shall be mandatory or compulsory.”

These checkoff programs, funded by assessments of products in a number of agricultural industries, were started as a way to raise funds that would be used to encourage research, promotion, and production in each individual industry. However, while these programs and their funds are overseen by government entities managed by the USDA, the private groups contracted by these entities have been accused of not handling their checkoff dollars in the best interest of producers in their respective industries. The most notable checkoff contractor to have its allegiance questioned is the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), which has been accused of mishandling the funds of the Cattleman’s Beef Promotion and Research Board (CBB) and its Beef Checkoff program.

Mike Callicrate, Vice President of OCM, stated, “The checkoff programs have proven to be more of a revenue stream for big industry touts like NCBA, instead of helping the independent producers that are forced by law to fund the programs. The NCBA has repeatedly stood in opposition to the interests of independent cattlemen in favor of the big packers and retailers.”

Callicrate’s statement echoes the sentiments of a growing number of independent cattle producers who feel that their checkoff dollars are not being appropriately spent by the NCBA. This amendment would provide those producers with an option to avoid putting money toward a group that doesn’t support them.

Source: The Organization for Competitive Markets