Progressive Dems and Republican Hard-Liners Unite on Effort to Curb Big Ag

Jonathan Cohn
2 min readOct 2, 2023

Amidst the long series of Republican hardliner amendments that the House voted on last week, every so often Republican hardliners ended up on the right side of an issue.

Take, for example, Victoria Spartz (IN-05)’s amendment to prohibit funds from being used to carry out the commodity checkoff program.

The checkoff program is a mandatory fee on farmers used to fund marketing efforts. Remember “Got Milk?,” “Pork: The Other White Meat,” or “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner”? Those were funded through this program.

You might think that the fact that those ad campaigns were funded by government-mandated fees is strange, and you’d be right. But it’s even stranger. Organizations like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, and the US Dairy Export Council are heavily reliant on the checkoff program, and they use the money to lobby against reforms that might help smaller farmers or protect clean air and water.

Here’s more from The American Prospect:

Checkoffs were originally intended to boost agricultural sales across sectors by paying for promotional campaigns, corporate partnerships, research, and product development. After decades of industry consolidation though, the large meatpackers and dairy processors control the labyrinthine chain of state councils and national boards that distribute the funds to contractors, most of which are lobbying groups in Washington. Checkoff dollars have become a slush fund captured by Big Ag to advance its own interests and crush any reforms to help small farmers using their own earnings….

While Secretary Vilsack has made curbing greenhouse gas emissions one of the USDA’s priorities, NCBA continues to receive both department grants and checkoff funding despite its lobbying efforts against environmental reforms.

It failed 49 to 377, with only 28 Republicans and 21 Democrats voting in favor.

Here are the 21 Democrats voting yes:

And among the Republicans were the likes of Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

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Jonathan Cohn

Editor. Bibliophile. Gadfly. Environmentalist. Super-volunteer for progressive campaigns. Boston by way of Baltimore, London, NYC, DC, and Philly.