Organic Checkoff Program? The Debate Continues!

OrganicFoodHealth_m_0904You may be familiar with well-known slogans such as “The Incredible Edible Egg,” “Got Milk?” or “Pork. The Other White Meat.” All of these are examples of advertising campaigns funded by commodity research and promotion programs, otherwise known as “checkoff programs”.

How they work

These programs are administered by the United States Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) and run by commodity producers to promote specific commodities (beef, pork, soybeans, eggs, milk, blueberries, avocados), through agricultural research and consumer marketing campaigns. The money to pay for these programs comes from mandatory fees (taxes) placed on commodity producers. For example, for every $100 value of pork sold, pork producers pay $0.40 towards the pork checkoff program. For the government, the purpose of these programs is to stimulate demand for the commodities that benefit from federal price supports. Once consumer demand increases, the government can reduce tax-funded payments to the farmers producing the commodities. In theory, this seems mutually beneficial for all involved in the program.

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Farm Bill 101 & Action Needed Now

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The Farm Bill is a 1001-page proposal that covers food, farming, nutrition, and land use, and is one of the primary tools for the US government to address issues that affect public health, climate, land and water. It’s drafted and hopefully passed through the House and Senate, and on to the President to sign every 5 to 7 years.

However, the days are limited for Congress to enact a new farm bill before the Sept. 30 expiration of current programs. For those paying attention, that Sept. 30, 2013 deadline was originally Sept. 30, 2012. Congress failed to complete its task last year, passing an extension in the early hours of Jan 1. 2013.

So, here we are – two years later – with no reform to outdated farm subsidies and funding stripped from nearly a dozen critical programs that help farmers and communities.  Programs that create jobs, invest in our next generation of farmers, and help farmers and communities build a more sustainable future.

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