WASHINGTON — Nicholas A. Pyle, president of the Independent Bakers Association, on Aug. 13 submitted a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in which the group “urgently requests the Department” not move forward with a proposed breadbasket checkoff program as a delayed referendum.

“Our understanding until recent discussions with AMS (Agricultural Marketing Service) Livestock and Poultry offices was the entire program would only go forward subject to an upfront vote by industry requirement support from at least 80% of the bakers meeting threshold 750,000 cwt flour usage,” Mr. Pyle said.

He said that members of the IBA that would be subject to checkoff assessments would be sending letters to the Department requesting the “upfront 80% vote” or that the program be tabled indefinitely.

Plans for the referendum to follow a three-year trial were announced and discussed in a town-hall discussion in April 2019 during the annual meeting of the American Bakers Association. At any point during the three-year trial period the checkoff board may call for a referendum.

For a referendum to pass, it must receive votes in favor by more than 50% of the market volume and at least 50% plus one participant.

Regarding the statute, Christine Cochran, executive director of the Grain Foods Foundation, said the 1996 Commodity, Promotion, Research and Information Act delineates the passage requirements for a referendum are a simple majority of assessed interests. Mandating an 80% majority would require rewriting the Act governing all checkoff programs.

“My chairman, Dan Mulloy of 151 Foods, considers a new bread tax by delayed referendum nothing short of taxation without representation,” Mr. Pyle said.

Mr. Pyle said IBA will share its concerns at a later time about launching the checkoff on baked foods at a time of rising food inflation and food insecurity and amid a pandemic.