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Rep. Victoria Spartz

Source: (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Two of your lawmakers from Indiana are on opposite sides of a debate over programs that help farmers, ranchers, and other food producers.

Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN-5th) is pushing an amendment to the 2024 agriculture appropriations bill that would clamp down on what are called “Checkoff Programs” amongst the farming community.

Checkoff programs are what farmers pay a premium for for each unit of product they sell. For example, beef cattle farmers pay $1 per head of cattle they sell into a checkoff program. That money is then used to promote research and promotion of better farming and industry practices. This research is conducted by the USDA.

The programs do not use any taxpayer dollars to pay for this research. Industry leaders say the programs are completely self-funded by these checkoff programs. Spartz’s amendment seeks to ensure that no taxpayer money is ever used to fund these programs.

“I think it’s become imperative that taxpayer dollars are not used to be given to these boards until we figure out what is going on with the money. This is a very simple amendment,” she said on the House floor Tuesday.

However, there is bipartisan opposition to Spartz’s amendment, especially from her fellow Hoosier lawmakers. Rep. Jim Baird (R-IN-4th) was brought in by opposing lawmakers to speak against the amendment.

“Checkoff programs function as research and promotion boards that help different commodities achieve industry success,” Baird said. “This amendment proves factually unnecessary and inaccurate since no tax dollars are used to implement the checkoffs and no appropriated dollars are used to oversee them.”

In response to Baird, Spartz argued that if no tax dollars are being used, then lawmakers opposed to her amendment should be fine with her amendment moving ahead. She added that it’s simply to add “transparency” to the checkoff process.

A voice vote was taken after the debate over the amendment ended which was given in favor of those supporting the amendment, however opposing lawmakers then demanded a recorded vote. The vote on the amendment was then postponed.