USDA Publishes Organic Checkoff Proposal; Time to Comment is Now

During the last week of the Obama Administration, USDA announced that it is seeking public comments on a proposal for a nationwide organic research and promotion (checkoff) program. This would allow the organic sector to pool its money together to engage in sector-wide research, advertising, and consumer education. (The public knows checkoff programs best by their promotional taglines, such as “Got Milk?” or “The Incredible Edible Egg”.) The Department of Agriculture is currently accepting comments from stakeholders.

The proposal would require certified organic producers and handlers, and importers of certified organic products to pay one-tenth of 1 percent of their net organic sales. Operations with gross organic sales under $250,000 can choose whether to opt in to the program and voluntarily participate.

An organic checkoff program could raise over $30 million per year for organic research, technical services, and consumer education and promotion. Those monies could provide research and key tools to encourage more farmers to transition to organic and to make all organic farmers more successful. They could educate consumers about what organic means.

The comment period on this proposed rule runs until March 20. After a final rule is published, all certified organic stakeholders who would be assessed by the program would have to vote in a referendum, and a majority of those voting would have to approve the proposal for it to be implemented.

Comments must be posted on www.regulations.gov or mailed to Promotion and Economics Division, SCP, AMS, USDA Room 1406, Stop 0244, 1400 Independence Avenue SW Washington, DC 20250-0244. If you have any questions, or would like to retain Karlin Strategic Consulting for assistance in crafting a comment, please contact us!

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