Expansion of Organic Assessment Exemption

Expansion of Organic Assessment Exemption

USDA is proposing to change the rules governing checkoffs on certified organic products.

FAQ: Industry research and promotion programs and federal marketing orders are requested by industry and funded by industry assessments. These checkoff programs work to create and expand markets for the ag commodities they represent. I read recently USDA wants to exempt more organic products from checkoffs. At the same time, I've also read that some organic producers and the Organic Trade Association are considering asking USDA to start a checkoff that would specifically apply to USDA certified organically produced crops. What's up?

ORGANIC CHECKOFF: The 2014 Farm Bill included language that gives USDA authorization to consider an organic checkoff. If the organic industry submits a proposal for a checkoff, USDA could start the process.

Answer: USDA is proposing expanding the organic exemption from assessments under various commodity promotion programs administered by the Ag Marketing Service (AMS). The changes are directed by the Agricultural Act of 2014, the new 2014 Farm Bill.

This action would apply the exemption from assessments to producers, handlers, marketers, or importers of "organic" and "100% organic" products certified under the National Organic Program. The exemption would apply regardless of whether the person requesting the exemption for organic products also deals with non-organic products. Currently, the exemption only applies to entities that solely produce, handle, market or import products that are certified 100% organic. The proposed rule would increase the number of organic industry entities eligible for assessment exemptions.

There are 22 national research and promotion programs. Under these programs producers of a particular agricultural product pay assessments to fund marketing campaigns and research initiatives that benefit their industry (for example, the well-known "Got Milk" campaign was developed with the dairy industry's promotion program, funded by assessments from dairy producers). Under the recent organic proposal announced by USDA, eligible producers, marketers, and importers would be exempt from paying assessments for these promotion programs on products certified as "organic" or "100% organic."

Under federal marketing order programs, eligible handlers would be exempt from the portion of the total assessment that is designated for market promotion activities. There are 23 marketing order programs that have market promotion authority. For more information about these programs, contact Barry Broadbent or Michelle Sharrow, Branch Chief, Marketing Order and Agreement Division, Fruit and Vegetable Program, AMS, USDA; Phone 202-720-2491, or email [email protected], or [email protected].

Industry research and promotion programs and federal marketing orders are requested by industry and funded by industry assessments. The programs work to create and expand markets

for the agricultural commodities they represent. USDA oversees the programs, including review of budgets, plans and projects. Notice of the proposed changes were published in the Dec. 16, 2014, Federal Register.

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