It’s the same story for the emblematic Got Milk? marketing campaign, which has appeared in the pages of major magazines as well as on television:

The federal check-off program employs the idea that ‘a rising tide floats all boats.’ Commercials and ads aren’t supposed to highlight specific brands or companies, just promote the general commodity. The marketing is supposed to increase consumer demand, broaden the market, and spur the development of new products.

So what went wrong?

Through the years, it’s become clear that checkoff money has been used illegally to influence policy and undermine other food products—activity that goes against the very spirit of the program. Here are a few examples:

Because the programs have not been transparent about how money is being used, funding has, at times, gone toward dubious and unlawful activities.

What the legislation proposes

If the proposed legislation passes, checkoff programs will be forced to make their budgets and allocations public. This is not something that major agricultural groups are going to like. Just last year they worked with lawmakers to ensure checkoff programs would be exempt from disclosing how they use their funds.

“It’s a step toward recognizing that this is problem,” Tetrick says. “Obviously this is a very contentious Congress and it’s difficult to get anything through. I’m hopeful this is one issue that intelligent Republicans and intelligent Democrats can agree on.”

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