Remember when the American Egg Board tried to intimidate Hampton Creek for making plant-based mayo? The AEB’s then president, Joanne Ivy, wanted the USDA to take action against Hampton Creek to stifle competition and tried to get its products out of Whole Foods. She even helped Unilever with its unsuccessful lawsuit against the plant-based company. Ivy resigned following the scandal.
The AEB administers a USDA checkoff program that funds egg industry research and promotion through surcharges to producers on eggs sold. The USDA also oversees meat, dairy, and other agricultural product checkoff programs. In total, agricultural checkoffs raise more than $650 million each year. By law, these programs are supposed to promote the beneficiaries’ own products, not attack competitors. Additionally, the checkoff boards are not supposed to influence agricultural policy. But because these boards are in bed with the industries their programs promote, impermissible policy influence is inevitable.
For example, The Humane Society of the United States filed a lawsuit alleging that the National Pork Board—a checkoff board—made an illegal backroom deal to purchase the slogan “Pork: The Other White Meat from lobbyist group the National Pork Producers Council. The lawsuit claims that the overly inflated $60 million purchase of the slogan was an impermissible use of checkoff funds for several reasons, not the least of which is that the slogan isn’t even used anymore and the NPB is still paying for it.
Now congressmen from both sides of the aisle aim to secure additional oversight of government checkoff programs to avoid such abuse. Senators Cory Booker and Mike Lee have introduced the Commodity Checkoff Program Improvement Act of 2016 to codify checkoff program transparency requirements, such as disclosures and audits, and prohibited activities. If passed, the bill would deter corrupt acts, such as those undertaken by former AEB president Joanne Ivy, and help ensure a fairer marketplace so that plant-based products can thrive!
Remember, regardless of the fate of this bill, you can do your part by choosing plant-based products over meat, eggs, and dairy. Visit ChooseVeg.com for more.