Producers and processors of 16 types of organic products may become exempt from paying assessments, commonly known as checkoffs, to commodity boards that research and market their products. The Agricultural Marketing Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees programs of research, education and marketing for 16 industries, has proposed the changes.
?[Organic producers?] concerns are considerably different than a conventional farmer?s would be. Unless a fair portion of those dollars are going to go toward your issues, why should you have to pay them?? said Kate Leavitt, international division manager for Sunrich Inc. of Hope, Minn. Leavitt said money saved on checkoff programs could be diverted into marketing to specifically benefit organic commodities.
The industries that have commodity boards include beef, blueberries, cotton, eggs, fluid milk, dairy, Hass avocados, honey, lamb, mushrooms, peanuts, popcorn, pork, potatoes, soybeans and watermelons.
To be considered for exemption, all of a producer?s crops must be certified organic, including those not covered by a commodity board. So if a farmer grows organic soybeans and corn, but the corn is not organic, there is no exemption.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 6/p. 10