The Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) is a government-owned and operated entity that was created in 1933 to stabilize, support, and protect farm income and prices. Today, Republicans charge that the $30 billion CCC is being used inappropriately.

“I get a kick out of our friends in Congress. They go, ‘It’s a slush fund. He’s just using it for whatever he wants to do.’ No, I don’t. I can’t do that because I’ve got lawyers,” says Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack. “I’ve got 230 some lawyers in the General Counsel’s office who are scared to death we don’t go into the guard rails. So, they’ll come to me and say, ‘Mr. Secretary, you can do this, and you can’t do this.’”

But Republicans see it differently, and not just with Democratic presidents. Senator Chuck Grassley blames former President Trump for raiding the CCC to offset China’s retaliation for his tariffs.

“He found out it was hurting agriculture, so he just willy-nilly takes $28 billion dollars to give to the farmers to offset the bad impact that it has on American agriculture exports. I call that a ‘slush fund.’”

That prompted Grassley and other Senate Republicans to introduce the USDA Spending Accountability Act and secure reporting requirements in the just enacted FY’24 Ag spending bill. But Vilsack argues the key example Republicans cite as CCC misuse isn’t misuse at all.

“So, when we did ‘climate-smart’ agriculture, we didn’t just simply say, ‘Here’s money, go do sustainable practices.’ We said, ‘Here’s money, go do sustainable practices and let’s create a new category of commodity, and let the market value that new category of commodity,’ because that’s the way you fit it into the CCC.”

Republicans agree that there are legitimate uses of CCC for farm subsidies and trade promotion but argue that even the Government Accountability Office has ruled that USDA should ask Congress first.