Commodity promotion programs:
Programs that advertise and promote an agricultural commodity or product without reference to the specific farmer, brand name, or manufacturer. Producers can and do organize voluntary commodity promotion programs, but most are operated under the authority of either federal or state laws, frequently with the objective of requiring that all members of the industry participate. At the federal level, the programs are authorized by law, implemented by industry groups (after USDA review, rulemaking and approval), and financed by assessments (also called check-offs) of industry members such as producers, importers, and/or handlers. In the past, Congress enacted separate laws permitting producers of specifically-designated commodities to create such programs. The FAIR Act of 1996 also gives USDA general authority to create programs for any commodity at the request of a group of producers. In early 1999, 12 federal promotion programs were fully operational: beef, cotton, dairy products, eggs, fluid milk, honey, mushrooms, popcorn, pork, potatoes, soybeans, and watermelon. In addition to the federally authorized programs, there are between 300 and 350 state-legislated promotion programs covering about 80 farm commodities. Nine out of ten U.S. farmers contribute to one or more of these efforts, which, collectively, raise and spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually.