Last week, legislation was reintroduced in the U.S. Senate to reform the most prominent government subsidy program in the U.S. cattle industry – the national beef checkoff program, which generates about $80 million annually from government-mandated producer assessments that many cattle producers refer to as “the cattle tax.” Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-K.Y.) introduced the Voluntary Check-Off Program Participation Act, S. 934.
The bill was previously introduced during Congress’ 2017-2018 session, and was referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. This year’s reintroduction will ensure the measures are again considered by the full Congress.
R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said his group welcomes the bill because it imparts accountability and transparency to the beef checkoff program. He said approximately one-half of the current cattle tax, about $40 million dollars, flows to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), a lobbying group that represents some of the world’s largest multinational meatpackers along with some cattle producers.
“Cross-subsidized by the current beef checkoff program, the NCBA lobbies against cattle-producer initiative on the basis that it does not want the government involved in the cattle industry. Yet, the NCBA is the single-largest benefactor of the $80 million government-mandated cattle tax that funds government speech.
“This outcome isn’t what U.S. cattle producers bargained for when the checkoff was first started in the late 80s,” Bullard concluded.
“The voluntary bill, S. 934, will allow producers to vote freely with their pocketbooks regarding whether they are individually satisfied with the checkoff’s performance,” said Bullard.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’s willing to offer follow-up legislation if needed to resolve any “glitches” as hemp starts a new era as a legal agricultural commodity.
The Kentucky Republican said Monday that includes safeguarding hemp shipments stopped by police who can’t tell whether they intercepted a legal crop or its illicit cousin, marijuana.
Some truckers hauling hemp have been arrested. The only way to distinguish hemp and marijuana is by measuring their tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and officers don’t have the testing technology to do so on the spot.
McConnell spoke at a hemp forum in Kentucky. U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Greg Ibach, who attended the conference, said USDA has reached out to drug enforcement officials to seek a “coordinated effort” on the interstate shipment of hemp.