The Organic Check-Off Program: Providing Research and Promotion for Organic

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is currently in the process of evaluating the Organic Check-off program, which would fund research and aid in promotion of organic agriculture. Other “check-off programs” include the “Got Milk?” campaign and The Wool Trust, which provides grant opportunities to assist the expansion of wool development in the United States. These existing programs are wonderful agricultural opportunities, but they don’t necessarily fulfill the needs of organic farmers and producers.

A Consumer Reports survey highlighted that shoppers now credit “natural” with attributes that only come from buying certified organic. The survey found that 86 percent of consumers believe that foods labeled as “natural” contain ingredients grown without pesticides, 87 percent believe they do not include artificial ingredients, and 85 percent believe they do not contain GMOs.

One important role of an organic check-off program would be to better inform the public regarding the organic label. Along with consumer education, this program will include on-farm research solutions, regional research solutions (especially important with the worst drought in over a decade looming for the western United States), and promotion to assist the expansion of the organic sector.  

CCOF encourages you to learn more about this opportunity. If you’re contacted by the OTA, share your thoughts by responding to their survey call.

If the Organic Check-off program sparks your interest, here are a couple of pieces of important information:

  • The proposed assessment (on businesses making more than $250,000 a year) is one-tenth of 1 percent. So, for example, there would be a $1,000 assessment for every $1 million in gross organic revenue generated by an operation.
  • Small farmers and businesses making less than $250,000 a year will be exempt under this proposal. Exempt operations can voluntarily contribute a flat fee of $100 per year (which will allow them a say in how the money is spent). Businesses that already participate in another federal check-off would get to choose to contribute to either the organic or other check-off.

This could be a game changer for organic, but it must be weighed carefully by each certified operation to make sure that it reflects their needs, values, and vision. For additional information visit