[Market-farming] checkoffs (was "patterns in direct market sales of meat")

Errol Castens castens at peoplepc.com
Fri Jan 3 09:30:16 EST 2003

Robert Farr wrote: And...what are "checkoffs"???

Liz Pike wrote: A checkoff is money from producers set aside to increase demand for a particular agriculture product--basically cooperative marketing.

In the case of beef, it's in the form of a $1-per-head federally compelled payment. The funds are used some for consumer-related research but most visibly for commodity promotion such as the "Beef: It's what's for dinner" campaign. The logic behind it is that all producers share in paying for what benefits all producers.

Some producers disagree, saying the promotions benefit processors, most of whom are prospering, at the expense of producers, many of whom are struggling to survive financially. Another objection is that such generic advertising benefits the producers and processors of imported beef as much as domestic. Some producers have even sued to end checkoffs in the pork, beef and mushroom industries (with mixed results; the issue will probably have to be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court). They say being forced to pay for speech with which they disagree or from which they do not believe they benefit violates the First Amendment.

If I were raising freezer beef for direct sale, I'd certainly think the checkoff was compelling me to support my competition by its implications that all beef -- whether it's grass-fed and organic or confinement-fed, antibiotic-laced and hormone-injected -- is equal in quality and value.

Errol Castens
Oxford, Mississippi
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