The Organic Trade Association (OTA) has pushed its Checkoff Program since 2012, touting it as a fund to research and promote organic products as a whole. Many farmers were dubious. Checkoffs (mandatory taxes on producers) have historically benefited processors and handlers far more than farmers. And this would be the very first checkoff program for such a wide array of stakeholders.
“We were very, very surprised –
it was incredibly unexpected.”
Image source: USDA
The Beef Checkoff brought us “Where’s the Beef,” the Egg Checkoff brought us “the incredible, edible, egg,” and the Dairy Checkoff brought us celebrities in magazines sporting milk mustaches. But the USDA disallows any advertising that would tout organic as superior to conventional production—reducing what, if any, benefits could accrue from a national marketing campaign.
Still the OTA persisted, reporting to Congressional representatives that there was widespread agreement from farmers on this proposed tax. All the while, farmers were dissenting openly on listservs and websites and sharing their distaste for the proposal with OTA leadership and one another.
Just as it appeared that organic farmers were going to be saddled with a tax that would line the pockets of the OTA and its corporate members, the Trump administration shut down the whole dog and pony show.
You can read more about the failed checkoff program and the OTA’s dismay, including some commentary by Cornucopia Codirector Mark Kastel, at Feed Navigator.