Hemp Industry Eyes 2021 Decision on Checkoff Program

Two industry associations see strong initial support for a fund to support hemp research, public education, and marketing.

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December 15, 2020

The National Industrial Hemp Council (NIHC) and the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) are surveying growers, processors, retailers, and other groups to determine their interest in a checkoff program to promote and develop the industry.

Larry Farnsworth, the spokesman for the NIHC, tells Hemp Grower that the survey would close at the end of December, with results likely published early in 2021. Initial results “show strong support” for the program, he added.

Checkoff programs collect assessment fees (usually based upon less than 1% of the processor’s commodity) to fund research, promotion, and hemp consumer education. NIHC says in a briefing paper about checkoff programs that the benefits far outweigh the costs. For instance, a 2016 Texas A&M study examined 27 different agricultural promotion groups showed every dollar invested produced between $3 to $17 in returns.

The checkoff program would focus on improving seed quality, agronomic production, and product processing. It would also boost consumer education and promotion, which would help the public understand hemp products’ benefits, environmental and otherwise, and encourage purchasing.

According to the NIHC, 21 other commodities already use checkoff programs, including beef, pork, dairy, soybeans, cotton, eggs, blueberries, honey, and Christmas trees.

If the associations move forward, the next step would be to submit a joint proposal to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for approval. If the USDA approves the program, the USDA secretary will appoint a board made up of hemp producers to run it, and the Agricultural Marketing Service would provide government oversight.