Checkoff programs are a form of generic advertising funded by a common agricultural industry such as dairy.
Generic ads like “Got Milk?” or “Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner” are the result of checkoff programs.
Since the enactment of the Commodity, Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996, ag. producers in the U.S. have been legally required to participate in (fund) federal checkoff programs.
In the beef industry, for example, the mandatory contribution is $1 per animal sold at slaughter.
Checkoff programs spend a whopping $557 million each year to encourage us to eat animals and animal products.
Since U.S. law requires ag. producers to participate in checkoff programs, the government also has a say in administering, overseeing, and approving the generic advertising.
As a result, “Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner,” has virtually become government speech. In fact, a recent Supreme Court ruling on the beef checkoff program arrived at this very conclusion.
The problem is that when the government has a vested interest in promoting the consumption of animal products such as beef, yet is also responsible for overseeing animal welfare measures and public health policies (such as the U.S. dietary guidelines and school lunch policies), policies which should be free of industry bias are compromised by an incentive to sell more animal products.
H.R. 1752/S. 740 has recently been introduced to end mandatory contributions to checkoff programs, and the conflict of interest it creates in government.
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