Farm Competition Groups Call on Biden Administration to Dismiss USDA Appointee with ties to the Chinese Communist Party

Calls for Ousting of Smithfield Executive Come on the Heels of China’s Attempt to Takeover American Pork Production

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 01, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Today, the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), and Competitive Markets Action (CMA), called on President Joe Biden and U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, to dismiss USDA’s Pork Checkoff Board Member Stewart Leeth, the chief sustainability officer at Smithfield Foods, a company wholly owned by the Chinese group 万洲国际, and whose purchase in 2013 was financed directly by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The groups’ call for Leeth’s removal comes on the heels of the House Committee on Agriculture’s hearing entitled “The Danger China Poses to American Agriculture” that was held in April by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn “G.T.” Thompson, R-PA. It also comes in the wake of countless lobbying firms delisting Chinese clients as lawmakers have weighed blacklisting firms lobbying for the Chinese. Yet the Biden Administration, and Secretary Vilsack have failed to sever its long controversial ties with Chinese-owned Smithfield’s executive.

“The Biden Administration and Secretary Tom Vilsack should immediately remove Stewart Leeth from the Pork Checkoff Board that has long-worked against American producers who pay into the till,” said Greg Gunthorp of Gunthorp Farms, a lifelong pork producer in Indiana and supporter of Competitive Markets Action. “Chinese-owned Smithfield and their minions that continue to infiltrate American agriculture production are one of the greatest threats facing our food safety and security and we must not allow China to prevail in their quest.”

“If the Biden Administration and Secretary Vilsack continue to push China’s Smithfield agenda in a government program that American producers are forced to pay into and keep Leeth on the board, we’ll swiftly see the last remaining independent pork producers in the U.S. fold up shop,” said Taylor Haynes, president of the Organization for Competitive Markets. “It doesn’t get any swampier than the situation we see with Leeth sitting on the Pork Checkoff Board and our government should quickly execute his removal.”

The process for removal can be found here.


According to the Smithfield Times, Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods, a proponent of the EATS Act, H.R. 4417/S. 2019, continues to advocate for the enactment of the legislation that would devastate family farmers across rural America and could put what few independent hog farmers are left in the U.S. out of business.  And according to federal lobbying reports, Holland and Knight, one of the largest lobbying firms in Washington, D.C., has been paid nearly $1 million representing the Chinese conglomerate over the past year. 

China's Smithfield continues to be a very serious and dangerous threat to the American farmers and ranchers and U.S. food production as the company continues to back and lobby for this bill. This dangerous legislation, led by Sen. Roger Marshall, R-KS, and Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-IA, would nullify more than 1,000 state laws that protect American family farmers from a Chinese influence. The EATS Act, and other legislation like it is being pushed by House Chairman Thompson, but is opposed by more than 2,000 diverse opponents with millions of members that include Moms For America, Farm Action, Competitive Markets Action, the Organization of Competitive Markets, FreedomWorks, the American Grassfed Association, Alabama Contract Poultry Growers Association, Kansas Cattlemen’s Association, and three of the nation’s top American-owned pork producers: Heritage Foods, Niman Ranch, and Clemens Food Group/Hatfield Meats, who was featured in Forbes for their ethical pork production. 

In addition to the EATS Act, another issue being debated in Congress is the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s scandal-ridden Commodity Checkoff Programs that fund the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). Groups like OCM, CMA, and many of those that oppose EATS support legislation introduced by Sens. Mike Lee, R-UT, Rand Paul, R-KY, Cory Booker, D-NJ, and Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, in the Senate and Reps. Nancy Mace, R-SC, and Dina Titus, D-NV, in the House: H.R. 1249/S. 557, the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act that would reform the checkoff programs by bringing transparency and requiring the programs be audited for compliance; by prohibiting disparagement of one product over another and picking winners and losers in the marketplace; and by prohibiting checkoffs from contracting with lobbying entities like NCBA who lobbied against Country-of-Origin Labeling, and the NPPC who has fought against state ballot measures like California’s Prop 12 that benefit American producers who practice more regenerative and sustainable agriculture.

Further on EATS, 10 U.S. House Republicans, led by House Freedom Caucus (HFC) champion Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-FL, sent a letter that included HFC chairman Bob Good, R-VA, to Thompson and Ranking Member David Scott, D-GA, against the nullification of Prop 12 that followed a similar October 2023 letter to Thompson and Scott signed by 16 House Republicans and led by front-liner Rep. Andrew Garbarino, R-NY.

To date, 226 bipartisan Members of Congress have vocalized their opposition to the nullification of Prop 12 by Thompson R-PA, Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-IA, and Sen. Roger Marshall, R-KS, who continue to champion the assault. 171 bipartisan Members of the House sent a letter to Thompson and Scott in August of 2023 and 31 U.S. Senators sent a similar letter to Senate Agriculture Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, and Ranking Member John Boozman, R-AR, last August. 

Since the EATS Act was introduced in 2023, the only public opposition Prop 12 has seen from a Democrat in federal office is from USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, D-IA, who has a long record of backing Chinese agriculture interests.

The Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Lincoln, Nebraska. The foundation of the Organization for Competitive Markets is to fight for competitive markets in agriculture for farmers, ranchers and rural communities. True competition reduces the need for economic regulation. Our mission, and our duty, is to define and advocate the proper role of government in the agricultural economy as a regulator and enforcer of rules necessary for markets that are fair, honest, accessible and competitive for all citizens.

Competitive Markets Action (CMA) is a 501(c)(4) non-profit based in Washington, D.C., that was formed with the mission of shaping policy to promote more regenerative and sustainable agriculture, and competitive markets in the U.S., and to defend against attacks on states’ rights by the federal government. CMA works to raise awareness of the harm caused by multinational conglomerates to the American family farmer, the consumer and our U.S. economy as a whole in an effort to bring about legislative and regulatory reforms.