Organic Check-off Program Still Open for Comment

The deadline to comment on two proposed rules for the Organic Research, Promotion, and Information Order (also known as the Organic check-off program) has been extended through April 19, 2017.

The proposed check-off program is projected to raise at least $30 million per year to fund organic research, technical assistance, and promotion of the organic brand.

What Will the Check-Off Do?

The check-off would create a 17-member governance board comprised of eight certified organic producers, seven certified organic handlers, one certified organic importer, and one at-large public member. This board will decide how to allocate research, promotion, and technical assistance funds.

Who Will Decide to Create the Check-Off?

Before the check-off goes into effect, USDA will conduct a national referendum on it. The plan must be approved by a majority of certified organic entities in the United States for the checkoff to be implemented. Additionally, the order would have to be approved every seven years by a majority vote of certified organic producers, handlers, and importers.

How Will the Check-Off Be Funded?

Under the proposal, all organic certificate holders, including farmers, ranchers, processors, handlers, and importers, will chip in one-tenth of 1 percent of the operation’s net organic sales each year, which is total gross sales minus cost of certified organic inputs and ingredients. Certified entities who bring in gross organic revenue of less than $250,000 annually would have the option of paying into the program.

Provisions in the order accommodate split operations and commodities covered by other marketing orders so that producers will only pay a single assessment for any given product.

You can find the order itself and useful background information on the website. A summary of the referendum procedures is also open for comment. Submit a comment by April 19.