The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has proposed changes to both the beef and soybean checkoff programs that would allow producers, under certain circumstances, to request that their assessments paid to a qualified state board or council be redirected to the national program.
The beef and soybean programs authorize the collection of assessments from cattle and soybean producers. In most cases, assessments are collected by a qualified state board or council – either Qualified State Beef Councils or Qualified State Soybean Boards – that retain a portion of the assessments. The state boards and councils forward the remainder of the assessments to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board or United Soybean Board, which administer the national programs. Some states have laws that allow state assessments, but some do not.
Therefore, AMS is adding a provision to these two promotion and research orders to allow beef and soybean producers to redirect assessments to the national program in certain cases, also ensuring that producers pay the full assessment as required by the beef or soybean legislation. For producers to be able to request that their assessments be redirected from the state organization to the national program, they must be in a state meeting one of the two circumstances:
- There is no state law requiring assessments to a state board or council; or
- There is a state law requiring assessments, but the state law allows for refunds.
- In addition, technical amendments would be made to the Beef Order to update information.
Details of the proposed changes published today in the July 15, 2016, Federal Register. Comments must be summited by Sept. 13, 2016, and may be submitted online at www.regulations.gov, or sent to Kevin Studer, Agricultural Marketing Specialist; Research and Promotion Division, Room 2608-S; Livestock, Poultry and Seed Program; AMS, USDA, STOP 0249; 1400 Independence Avenue, SW.; Washington, D.C. 20250-0249; telephone number (202) 253-2380; fax (202) 720-1125. Copies of the proposed rule and additional information are available from the same address.
Legislation would make checkoff voluntary
Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah) introduced the Voluntary Check-Off Program Participation Act Wednesday, a bill that give would give farmers and ranchers the freedom not to participate in Department of Agriculture check-off programs.
“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,” Lee said. “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.”
Checkoff programs are funded through compulsory fees on producers of milk, eggs, beef, and a multitude of other agricultural products. Lee said the programs and associated boards “regularly receive criticism for their lack of transparency, apparent conflicts of interest, misuse of their power, anticompetitive behavior, and other related issues.”
The Voluntary Check-Off Program Participation Act would allow farmers and ranchers to participate in check-off programs if they desire to while ending the tax on those producers who would prefer not to participate in these programs.
“Producers of whatever commodity who won’t pay into a checkoff nevertheless still will get the benefits of checkoff programs – promotion of the product they produce, research findings on production methods and education of consumers – which will be funded by producers who do pay,” said David Warner, spokesperson for the National Pork Producers Council.