What is an Organic Checkoff?
Even if you’re not sure what a checkoff is, you’ve likely heard of a few of these programs. Checkoffs were set up to support specific agricultural commodities without mentioning companies or brands. People who grow these commodities pay a mandatory fee and that money is used to fund research and marketing for their product. Checkoffs exist at both the federal and state level.
There are several checkoffs in the produce industry—Hass Avocado Board, National Watermelon Promotion Board, Mushroom Council and National Mango Board, just to name a few. The new USDA proposal dubbed GRO Organic aims to create a checkoff program to support all aspects of the organic food system: organic produce, dairy, meat, grains and processed foods.
Farmers, packers and retailers are split on the issue. On one hand, GRO would generate new money to fund research that could ultimately help increase demand and sales of organic products. On the other hand, this would be another expense to burden organic farmers and suppliers.
USDA is currently reviewing comments and deciding if this proposal should pass. If it is implemented, expect organic research and marketing efforts to increase in the future.
Want to know more? Check out our in-depth industry coverage on GRO.