Checkoff organizations collect funds, sometimes called checkoff dollars, from producers of a particular agricultural commodity and uses these funds to promote and do research on the commodity. The organizations must promote their commodity in a generic way, without reference to a particular producer. These organizations are responsible for familiar American advertising campaigns, including ‘Milk Does a Body Good,’ ‘Got Milk?’, ‘Pork. The Other White Meat,’ ‘The Incredible, Edible Egg,’ and ‘Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner.’

The United States Department of Agriculture is responsible for overseeing the formation of checkoff organizations under the authority of Commodity, Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996. Because individual producers of nearly homogeneous agricultural commodities cannot easily convince consumers to choose one egg or orange or a single cut of beef over another, they often have joined together in commodity promotion programs to use generic advertising in an effort to expand total demand for the commodity, with the objective of helping their own sales as well.

Activities are intended to expand both domestic and export demand; examples include advertising, nutrition education, research to improve product quality and appeal, market research studies, and technical assistance. These activities are often self-funded through assessments on marketings – hence, the name check-off programs. Congress has permitted producer groups to make check-offs mandatory, and this aspect has generated legal challenges by some producers, who contend they must pay taxes for activities they would not underwrite voluntarily.

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