National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Todd Wilkinson has responded to comments made this week by Congresswoman Victoria Spartz (R-IN-5 District) in which she criticized the ag checkoff programs.
Spartz recently introduced an amendment to the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2024 that states that none of the funds made available by the bill may be used to carry out commodity checkoff programs.
In an interview with Michigan Ag Today’s Sabrina Halvorson, Spartz says the checkoff programs lack oversight and transparency.
“I just sold over fifty thousand bushels of wheat and paid the fees, so I understand what it is about,” rebuffed Spartz. “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.”
Spartz 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,” Spartz said. “This is a fee [that] 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.”
In a statement released by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), Wilkinson said that Spartz is misinformed about the checkoff programs.
“As a cattle producer, I know what it means to work hard for every dollar, and I am proud to invest my money in the Beef Checkoff. It’s extremely disappointing to see members of Congress, who have historically been allies to agriculture, turn on the cattle industry and attack our producer-led checkoff,” said Wilkinson.
“I am especially disappointed in Rep. Spartz, who claimed in a recent interview that she paid into the wheat checkoff, which does not exist at the federal level. I’d encourage people to understand the truth about how Checkoff programs operate by visiting their websites, or better yet, by getting involved in the Checkoff programs themselves rather than spreading misinformation that furthers the goals of anti-agriculture activists,” he said.
“The Beef Checkoff was created by cattle producers, voted on by producers, and is directed by producers. It’s a program that delivers a $11.91 return on investment and strengthens demand for our high-quality beef. The Checkoff is also extremely transparent and if anyone wants to know where Beef Checkoff dollars go, all you have to do is visit the Cattlemen’s Beef Board website,” said Wilkinson.
Click below to hear Sabrina Halvorson’s interview with Congresswoman Victoria Spartz and news report on her criticism of the checkoff programs.