Organic Check-Off: How are decisions made?

Organic Checkoff Program Proposed Governance Framework

  • Diverse Board composition
  • 50% producer-held Board seats
  • No block voting
  • Automatic program evaluations and referendums

UPDATED: 3/13/2015

How will Organic Check-off program decisions be made?

An Organic Check-off program would be directed by an industry-governed board, appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. This board would be responsible for allocating funds and approving organic research and promotion plans and programs. Once the Organic Check-off Board has devised a plan outlining projects to be sponsored through check-off money, the USDA would review and approve the plans. A Board sub-committee of producers would make recommendations on regional research spending.

How is the Organic Check-off Board selected?

Industry groups, regions or individuals could nominate candidates for the Organic Check-off Board. Nominations would be reviewed and approved by USDA. Organic certificate holders will be notified when there are open seats on the Board.

Board members would serve no more than two consecutive three-year terms, with a related provision that no company could have a representative on the Board for more than two consecutive terms without a term break in between.

What is the recommended composition for the Organic Check-off Board?

The composition of the Board would reflect the diversity of sectors paying into the check-off, in addition to having balanced regional participation and strong producer representation. The proposal calls for 7 regional producer seats (northern California, southern California, Pacific Northwest, Southwest, North Central, Southern, Northeast), 5 first-handlers, 2 processed products, 1 importer, 1 at-large voluntary producer and 1 at-large public (non-voting). The composition of the Organic Check-off Board allocates at least 8 of the 16 voting seats for producers.

Producer seats were increased to a guaranteed minimum of 50% of Board slots in response to feedback from farmer groups. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) were also used as models for developing the proposed Board framework.

Would block voting be allowed in the Organic Check-off program?

Block voting is a single vote by a representative on behalf of the members of an organization such as a producer cooperative, weighted according to the number of members. Block-voting would not be allowed.

What are the options for Organic Check-off program amendment procedures?

The organic sector prefers a decentralized approach to amending the Organic Check-off program instead of leaving the power solely with the Board. The framework requires an automatic evaluation every five years and a referendum every seven years to determine whether or not to continue with the program.

What would the Organic Check-off program be called?

The working title for the organic check-off is the Generic Research and Promotion Order for Organic or “GRO Organic.” The “GRO” acronym is a catchy and intentional nod to the many facets of organic that will grow with check-off funding, such as organic acres, organic farmers, organic research, organic products, organic sales, organic awareness etc.