Target: Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
Goal: End unnecessary programs that force farmers to contribute to Big Ag lobbying and corruption.
Free market economics is being tampered with in the realm of meat and egg production. Due to government programs put in place decades ago, all animal agriculture is subject to mandatory taxes. These “checkoff” programs require each farmer or rancher to pay a certain price per unit for the commodity they supply, no exceptions.
So where does this extra cash all go? Checkoff programs were initially created as voluntary contributions to industry promotion, hence the name “checkoff.” Moreover, farmers would check a box if they wished to contribute. However, commodity checkoff programs are now mandatory for producers of pork, milk, eggs, and more. The money collected from checkoff taxes amounts to millions each year that is supposed to go to generic promotion of the commodity they are collected on. This is where familiar slogans such as “Got Milk?” and “Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner” originate from. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is responsible for overseeing the creation and regulation of these campaigns.
The very concept of checkoff programs is troubling enough. Why should the government be encouraging the biased promotion of certain products? Numerous studies have shown America’s high consumption of dairy to be unnecessary, even unhealthy. Similarly, evidence has surfaced that red meat can contribute to cancer risks. Further, these huge industries already generate more than enough money for self-promotion.
Checkoff programs became even more shady when information surfaced that checkoff organizations were using the money improperly. Industries have been shown to divert money away from commodity promotion and towards lobbying against things like animal welfare regulations and meat labeling. This is supposed to be prohibited under the regulations of checkoff programs but the USDA often turns a blind eye.
Many farmers want out of the tax, as do the consumers whom the costs are passed on to. Big industry promotion does not aid independent family farmers, especially not those who choose to use humane and environmentally friendly practices. Farmers should not be forced to contribute to this shady Big Ag slush fund. Please urge the USDA to end commodity checkoff programs.
Dear Secretary Vilsack,
Commodity checkoff programs for agricultural products are unnecessary and damaging to a free market. The government should not be involved in the promotion of certain products. Campaigns such as the “Got Milk?” slogan give the impression the government is suggesting the consumption of dairy on a public health basis, not to bolster industrial agriculture profits. This additional promotion is both unfair and unnecessary. Large agricultural industries have more than enough money to create campaigns, and many independent farmers do not see any direct benefits from the programs.
Furthermore, several large trade associations have been shown to divert money away from checkoff programs to fund other industry goals. This has included attempts to sway elections, lobbying against animal welfare or labeling regulations, and taking down corporate competitors. Farmers should not be forced to pay into a slush fund for Big Ag politics. Please protect both farmers and consumers and put a stop to mandatory checkoff programs.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Don Shall