wisconsin soybean

Soy advocacy stops House’s anti-checkoff amendment

Categories: WSAPublished On: October 4, 20233.1 min read

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In recent months, the long-established commodity checkoff program has faced resistance in Washington, D.C., in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. In the House, Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) introduced an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2024 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act that aimed to strike down the commodity checkoff program. As an American Soybean Association (ASA) affiliate, the Wisconsin Soybean Association (WSA) was strongly against this legislation and encouraged its members to oppose the amendment. Thus, WSA was pleased to learn the amendment was voted down 49 to 377 on Sept. 27, 2023. 

“Congresswoman Spartz took aim at the entire checkoff system with no regard to the votes of those of us farmers who, time and again, have voted to preserve these programs that allow us to collectively promote our crops, conduct research, develop and protect markets, and assure domestic and global access,” said ASA President Daryl Cates, a soybean farmer from Illinois. “I speak for the soy industry today when I say, we are exceptionally pleased this strange amendment was snuffed on the House floor.” 

Every five years, the soy checkoff comes up for referendum, giving soybean growers across the U.S. the opportunity to vote to eliminate the soy checkoff. The last request for referendum was held May 2019 and only 708 farmers nationwide requested a referendum. With more than half a million soy farmers in the U.S., that figure represents less than one percent of eligible growers and falls short of the 10 percent needed to cue a referendum, demonstrating the overwhelming support of the soy checkoff. 

“To take any action that would inhibit the checkoffs from performing the work they do, like creating new markets, strengthening global relationships with buyers and consumers and researching innovative pathways that increase profitability and sustainability for soybean farmers would be a complete and total mistake,” said Tanner Johnson, who represents Wisconsin on the ASA board of directors. 

Though Spartz’s amendment was thwarted, there is still action to be taken on the Senate side. 

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) filed the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act as an amendment to the Senate “minibus” appropriations package, which includes the Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill. Billed as “checkoff reform,” the proposed OFF Act fails to recognize the extensive existing oversight of both the USDA and the organizations that administer agriculture checkoffs. 

The OFF Act, which is also supported by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), would prohibit checkoff organizations from providing any funds to, or contracting with, parties that engage in activities for the purposes of influencing government policy or similar activity that relates to agriculture, even if the activities funded by the checkoff are not lobbying. ASA has set up its digital Soy Action Center to encourage supporters of the soy checkoff to contact their senators and urge them to oppose the amendment.   

“Checkoffs, specifically the soybean checkoff, has been one of the best dollar-for-dollar investments soybean farmers have made,” said Johnson.  

For each dollar Wisconsin soybean growers invest in the soy checkoff, they receive $12.34 in added value at the national level. And thanks to the work of the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board (WSMB) in three key areas – production research, market development and new uses – Wisconsin soybean growers have the tools, markets and research needed to succeed in their field. Although checkoff dollars can’t be used for lobbying purposes, WSA is free to advocate in legislative support of the program.  

“The Wisconsin soybean checkoff is critical to our mission,” WSA President Sara Stelter said. “WSMB works with WSA to provide research and information that we can present to our governing bodies and lawmakers to give those folks accurate information on a variety of topics. By working side-by-side with WSMB, WSA is a stronger force at the capital.”