Checkoff Programs

Facts about Checkoffs

A concise guide to understanding national commodity marketing and promotion programs.
Your guide to understanding national commodity promotion and research programs. Prepared by the National Commodity Checkoff Boards and Councils.
Straight answers to the most frequently asked questions about national checkoff programs.

What is a checkoff program?

A checkoff is an industry-funded generic marketing and research program designed to increase domestic and/or international demand for an agricultural commodity. This can be done through promotion, research and new product development, and a variety of other marketing tools. These programs are similar to businesses funded by shareholders (producers, processors, handlers, importers, etc.) with a board of directors that is accountable to the shareholders.

Who pays for the checkoff?

Each checkoff program is supported entirely by its funders. NO TAXPAYER OR GOVERNMENT FUNDS ARE INVOLVED. Contribution rates vary throughout the different checkoffs, but they are always based on a percentage of net sales or assessed at a set rate per production unit. Each checkoff program participant contributes at the same rate, no matter where his or her operation is located.

How do checkoffs benefit farmers, producers, processors, handlers or importers?

The fundamental goal of every checkoff program is to increase commodity demand, thereby increasing the potential long-term economic growth of all sectors of the industry.

Do checkoffs benefit consumers?

Yes, checkoff programs benefit consumers by providing:

Product information to help make informed choices. 
Research to create new and improved products that meet consumer quality, safety and nutritional expectations.

Who directs checkoff programs?

Checkoff programs are directed by industry-governed boards, appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. These boards are responsible for allocating funds and approving business plans and programs. Checkoff program participants have the right to retain or discontinue their respective programs.

Do checkoff programs receive government assistance?

No. Checkoffs are funded entirely by their respective industries, NOT by taxpayers or government agencies.

How is the federal government involved in checkoff programs?

Checkoff programs were established by acts of Congress. USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has primary oversight responsibilities. USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) provides additional oversight responsibilities for checkoff program activities in global markets.

Are all checkoff programs the same?

No. Although all checkoff programs do have a similar goal and purpose – to increase commodity demand and long-term economic growth for their respective industries - they all accomplish this in different ways that are best suited for the market structure of each commodity.