Michigan agriculture commodity check-off programs

Twelve agriculture commodities in Michigan operate check-off programs that promote the sale of specific products in domestic and foreign markets.

Marketing Development Programs, sometimes referred to as “Commodity Check-Off Programs,” are designed to promote the sale of specific agriculture products in domestic and, in some cases, foreign markets. These programs are funded by mandatory assessments on the producers of a commodity with the goal of advancing common industry interests.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) conducts referendum votes by the producers of each commodity every five years from the start of the program. If a start-up or amendment referendum is needed before the fifth-year vote, the industry can petition the MDA director to conduct such a vote. The petition must be supported by 25 percent or 200 (whichever is less) Michigan commercial producers of the commodity.

Each check-off program serves a legislatively established commodity group governed by a leadership board that is appointed by the governor for a three-year term. The purpose of the leadership board is to administer the marketing programs and enforce policy. Although the MDA supervises the procedures and functions of the commodity boards, they retain independent status.

Common components of check-off programs include support for research, collection and dissemination of marketing information to the industry, education to increase consumer knowledge about the commodity, and consumer advertising (or demand promotion). As of 2011, 12 agriculture commodities in Michigan operate check-off programs. These include dry beans, grapes and wine, apples, asparagus, carrots, corn, dairy, onions, tart and sweet cherries, plums, potatoes and beef. Soybeans were also originally included in a Michigan check-off program, but that has now been suspended in lieu of a National Assessment Program. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development convenes quarterly commodity executive meetings with industry members to discuss current issues in the agriculture markets.

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