Spartz Ag Appropriations Amendment Ignites Checkoff Debate

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The cattle industry is speaking out against a proposed amendment to the ag appropriations bill, and the Representative behind the amendment is firing back.  Introduced by Indiana Congresswoman Victoria Spartz (R-IN-05), the amendment states that none of the funds made available by the bill may be used to carry out commodity checkoff programs. Vice President of Government Affairs with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Ethan Lane, says it simply wasn’t necessary.

Ethan Lane
Vice President of Government Affairs, NCBA

“The amendment that was offered by Representative Spartz would seek to prevent any federal funds from being used to implement federal commodity checkoff programs. But the strange thing about that is that no federal funds are used to implement federal commodity checkoff programs. They are funded by contributions to those programs from producers throughout the country that pay in,” he explained. “It really speaks to the fact that Representative Spartz and her team don’t understand completely the issue that they’re attempting to impact with the amendment.”

“I just sold over fifty thousand bushels of wheat and paid the fees, so I understand what it is about,” rebuffed Congresswoman Spartz in a separate interview. “But I haven’t seen what these organizations are doing. I know that they’re paying big salaries to their boards. So, I think that we need to look and make sure that these organizations are serving the purpose to promote agriculture, not to promote [a] few oligarchs and large monopolies.”

Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN-05)

Spartz also pointed out that it wouldn’t affect any federal money for checkoff programs since there is no federal money. However, she says the mandatory checkoff payments equate to a farming tax and therefore Congress should have some oversight.

“There is a problem with checkoff. They’re not transparent. They are not telling what’s happening with the board, who’s serving on the board, what they’re doing, how they spend money,” she said. “This is a fee farmers are forced to pay. It’s not a voluntary fee. Congress forces every farmer to pay this tax, so Congress needs to know what they’re doing. And farmers need to know.”

However, NCBA’s Lane disagrees about a lack of transparency.

“Rep. Spartz’s assertions are completely inaccurate. The Beef Checkoff is subject to robust oversight from USDA and cattle producers themselves,” he said. “If anyone wants to know how Checkoff dollars are spent, go to and see for yourself.”

Meanwhile, despite the fact that it wouldn’t actually affect the checkoff funds, Lane says the amendment could add to other efforts.

“I think it’s important in this environment where you have these radical animal rights groups and others trying to gut the checkoff system. We have the OFF Act that’s out there, being pushed by the HSUS Humane Society of the US, ASPCA, and Senator Cory Booker, from New Jersey and Mike Lee, Nancy Mace,” he said. “We don’t want to have any sort of wrinkle in that wall of opposition to these outside forces trying to prevent the producers from promoting their own products and conducting research in the space that they operate in.”

The Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act would make several changes to checkoff programs including adding audits of the programs by the Department of Agriculture. Spartz said she supports the act and the additional oversight it includes.

The amendments to the ag appropriations bill are scheduled for discussion Wednesday afternoon.

The reporter asked in a follow-up email what fees the congresswoman was referring to paying for her sold wheat, as there is not a federal wheat checkoff program. The reply from her communications manager states: “It’s great that Indiana chose not to participate in wheat checkoffs, but it still has involuntary soybean checkoffs the Congresswoman paid plenty of, which is irrelevant. What is relevant is that these personal sexist attacks will not deter the Congresswoman from demanding transparency and accountability for farmers from cash rich executives clueless about farming. “

Listen to the full interview with Congresswoman Victoria Spartz conducted July 25, 2023.

Listen to the full interview with Ethan Lane conducted July 24, 2023.

Sabrina Halvorson
National Correspondent / AgNet Media, Inc.

Sabrina Halvorson is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, and public speaker who specializes in agriculture. She primarily reports on legislative issues and hosts The AgNet News Hour and The AgNet Weekly podcast. Sabrina is a native of California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley.