Ag groups defend checkoffs, voice opposition to DeMint amendment

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, June 15, 2012- In a letter to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), 20 agricultural stakeholder groups expressed their opposition to an amendment to the 2012 Farm Bill that would make federal research, promotion and marketing programs, “checkoffs,” voluntary. Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-S.C.) amendment, SA 2276, repeals mandatory and compulsory checkoff programs. 

“The checkoff is not a tax. It is not something that is imposed upon us as farmers. Rather, it allows farmers to invest our own dollars to conduct research, build markets and create new uses for soy,” said American Soybean American (ASA) President Steve Wellman. “Our checkoff program has produced a strong return of $6.40 in increased profit for every dollar invested.”

“With oversight provided by USDA, producers have taken it upon themselves to fund over $905 million of research, promotion and consumer education programs annually through checkoff activities at no cost to the federal government,” stated the groups in the letter. “In these austere budgetary times, our producers should be commended and certainly deserve the support of Congress. Our members see the checkoff programs as an investment in their families' future which they and their fellow producers have voluntarily adopted.”

“Recent distorted media attacks and ill-conceived legislative proposals ignore how these programs are established and approved in referenda by producers who fund the programs with their own money,” according to the letter.

“Checkoff programs cost the government zero dollars. They are paid for and guided by the farmers they serve. Even USDA oversight of the soy checkoff is funded by soybean farmers. Furthermore, farmers already have the chance to vote via referendum every five years whether we continue such checkoff programs,” Wellman said, vowing to defeat any effort that would weaken checkoff programs. 

The following industry groups signed the letter:

American Beekeeping Federation

American Farm Bureau Federation

American Mushroom Institute

American Sheep Industry Association

American Soybean Association

National Cattlemen's Beef Association

National Corn Growers Association

National Cotton Council

National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

National Farmers Union

National Milk Producers Federation

National Pork Producers Council

National Potato Council

National Sorghum Producers

National Watermelon Association

Produce Marketing Association

United Dairymen of Arizona

United Egg Producers

United Fresh Produce Association

Western Peanut Growers Association

For a detailed list of recently submitted amendments to the 2012 Farm Bill go here. 

For the text of the groups' letter go here. 

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