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Lee and other senators promote bill aimed to help small farmers

(Photo: Deseret News, 2016)

WASHINGTON D.C. – What could possibly get Senator Mike Lee on the same side as senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker?  They’ve teamed up to introduce legislation that could help local farmers better understand what the government is doing with their money.

You’ve seen the commercials with famous slogans like, “Beef.  It’s what’s for dinner,” “The Incredible Edible Egg,” and “Got Milk?”  Those slogans were made by organizations called federal commodity checkoff programs, which are designed to promote farmers’ products on a national scale.

“Farmers are forced to pay into the fund.  They have no choice in the matter,” according to Marty Irby with the group Animal Wellness Action.

However, critics like Irby say the people running some of these programs are using those funds for lobbying efforts, which they’re not supposed to do.

“The Cattleman’s [Beef] Association, the Dairy Producers, and the National Pork Producers Council have all been lobbying.  We’ve been on Capitol Hill and we’ve seen them lobbying,” Irby claims.

Currently, farmers don’t have access to the information about what these organizations actually spend their money on.  The Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act is designed to bring more transparency to these checkoff programs.

Irby adds, “It requires they show the books to the American people and to show their books to the farmers.”

The bill would also prevent anti-competitive behavior in the farming industry.

Despite the major differences in politics between the senators who back the bill, Irby says all of them have local farmers in their states

“This bill was introduced in the previous Congress by senators Lee and Booker but we didn’t have [Elizabeth] Warren and [Rand] Paul.  That adds to the narrative of what’s going on,” he says.