Washington, D.C. — On Friday, a bipartisan group of Congressional lawmakers sent a letter urging U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to submit annual reports on the dairy checkoff program to Congress, as required by federal law. The letter calls out the fact that Secretary Vilsack failed to deliver these reports for the years 2020, 2021, and 2022.
“We are highly troubled that dairy farmers have been denied access to federally mandated reports detailing the efficacy of programs they must fund,” the letter states. “Furthermore, this is not the first time that USDA under your leadership has failed to submit these reports to Congress. In your first term as Secretary, they went unpublished for five years.”
The Congressional letter comes after Farm Action and the National Dairy Producers Organization exposed the missing reports in June, and requested their release in a letter to the USDA.
Friday’s Congressional action prompted a response from USDA to Farm Action’s June letter, as well as the publishing of the 2020 report, which according to federal law was due 26 months ago, on July 1, 2021. The 2021 and 2022 reports are still missing.
“We commend these members of Congress for forcing USDA to respond to the farmers they should be accountable to. We hope it doesn’t take another 26 months for USDA to issue each of the outstanding dairy checkoff reports,” said Farm Action President Angela Huffman.
The Congressional letter was signed by Senators Booker, Lee, and Warren, and Representatives Mace, Titus, Massie, Correa, Casar, and Blumenauer.
The dairy checkoff scandal comes as Congress considers the bipartisan Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act. The OFF Act would increase checkoff budget transparency, require periodic audits, and prohibit checkoff funds from being awarded to organizations that lobby, with an exception for universities.