Congress in its infinite wisdom is now doing Big Ag a big favor. It wants to exempt checkoff programs from having to deal with pesky Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
The House Appropriations Committee just approved its version of the 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill along with committee report language getting checkoffs off the hook.
Checkoff programs, you will recall are commodity research and promotion programs run by boards and overseen by USDA. The Milk Board, for example, does the milk mustache campaign.
Checkoffs mainly do generic marketing. They are not supposed to lobby. The USDA is supposed to manage the boards—but not with federal money.
So are checkoffs government programs or not?
The checkoffs like to say they are government when convenient, but not government when inconvenient. This is one of those times.
The report language says because checkoffs are “not agencies of the federal government,” they should not be subject to FOIA laws.
I learned about this latest example of congressional protection of industry from a tweet on May 2 from Associated Press reporter Candice Choi.
Food commodity trade groups, she shows, wrote a letter to Congress to exempt checkoff programs from being subject to FOIA r…