Wisconsin organic farmers are deciding whether to support the creation of a national board that will pay for advertising and research.
More than a dozen crops have promotion boards overseen by the United States Department of Agriculture. Some are behind well-known marketing campaigns like "Got Milk?" and "Beef, It's What's For Dinner." Such campaigns are paid for using mandatory fees that every producer must pay through what's called a checkoff program.
The Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group The Organic Trade Association is holding a series of town hall meetings across the country to discuss the idea of establishing a checkoff program of its own. Executive Vice President Laura Batcha says her organization is asking farmers and others what they would want in a checkoff program: "What could they look like that would be fair, equitable, and make you feel like it was a worthy investment for your business."
Efforts to create similar marketing boards have proved controversial in the past. Organic Valley is a co-op with members in 33 states. CEO George Seimon says he has members that would refuse to sign up for such a program: "So, I'm kind of surprised by the negative reaction to it, but it shows that the farmers have not felt promotion boards have been effective."
The Organic Trade Association held its most recent town hall meeting in La Crosse.