Boards supporting sectors of the agricultural industry from eggs to beef to avocados are cited in the new bill. Photograph: Alamy
Sam Thielman in New York Thursday 14 July 2016 06.00 EDT
Republican senator Mike Lee and New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker’s proposed law would require agricultural marketing programs to make budgets public
A new bill proposing restrictions on lucrative and controversial government-backed farm promotion programs is expected to be introduced by Utah Republican senator Mike Lee and New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker on Thursday.
The move would affect the American Egg Board, the body revealed by the Guardian last year to have used its funds to wage a massive and secret campaign against Hampton Creek, a startup selling egg-free mayonnaise.
The law would broadly reform US Department of Agriculture marketing boards that allow small groups of executives, usually representatives from the largest agricultural producers, to spend funds collected from their smaller competitors, ostensibly to promote American farming.
Boards supporting sectors of the agricultural industry from eggs to beef to avocados are cited in the new bill.
Agricultural marketing programs, or “checkoff” programs, collect levies on commodities made in the US and use the funds to promote those commodities. But the restrictions on those funds are not always obeyed by the boards themselves, say the senators.
The bill would make the budgets of checkoff programs public. It would also require the programs to disclose any use of outside contractors, such as publicity firms or advertising agencies.
Lee, a conservative who champions limited government and often criticizes federal programs for “waste, fraud and abuse”, is rarely seen agreeing with the more liberal Booker, but here the issue unites environmentalists and capitalists.