When fair season rolls around, so do the requests for materials promoting agriculture in Ohio. Chocolate milk flavored lip balms, grilling guides, recipe cards, agriculture-related coloring books, cuts of beef and pork brochures, cow erasers, local farmer videos and farm-to-plate infographics — these are all on Mandy Orahood’s list of items to have on hand for Farm Bureau booths set up at fairs in Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Trumbull counties.
Orahood, an Ohio Farm Bureau organization director, knows exactly where to go to order popular giveaways, helpful infographics and videos that help promote the state’s most important industry. She reaches out to the state’s agricultural groups that devote part of their farmer checkoff funding to promotional and educational efforts.
“I always take advantage of getting free material from the commodity groups. I love having something on the tables that people can look at or take home with them and make use of like recipe cards. Whatever it takes to remind them of agriculture’s role in their daily lives,” she said.
What is a checkoff?
Checkoff programs have been around for decades and help promote the sales of certain farm products. The funds come directly from the commodities’ farmers and producers. They pay a certain percentage of their harvest or livestock value and those funds are then used for research, promotion and education of those commodities at the national, state and local levels. For example, the well-known “Pork, The Other White Meat,” “Got Milk?” and “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner” campaigns were funded by checkoff dollars over the years.
Agriculture promotion and education is increasingly becoming important since consumers today are often several generations removed from the farm or don’t understand what it takes to put food on their tables, clothes on their backs or fuel in their vehicles. And teachers are often looking for ways to reintroduce agriculture into school curricula or enhance existing lessons to make them more STEM-focused (science, technology, engineering and math).
That’s where the checkoff programs come into play. They provide educational material as well as access to the experts who work in the agricultural sector. Every year the beef, pork, dairy, corn, soybean and small grains checkoff programs all together generate millions of dollars for the promotion and enhancement of these commodities in Ohio.
Here’s an example of how it works. The national beef checkoff rate is $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle plus a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. The national beef checkoff program gets 50 cents of every dollar with the rest going to state-based programs. Ohio has an additional $1 checkoff, meaning Ohio cattle producers pay $2 per animal. The national and Ohio checkoff programs yearly generate about $900,000 for the Ohio Beef Council, which administers Ohio’s program, according to Elizabeth Harsh, the organization’s executive director.
Who can request materials
“Any group that wants to further agriculture’s message and reach consumers can use our materials, whether they’re county Farm Bureaus, 4-H groups, fairs or events like breakfast on the farm. That’s what we’re here for,” she said.
The Ohio Pork Council used checkoff money to start offering live virtual farm tours to schools that lacked funding to take students to farms. Other Ohio commodity groups now offer this type of farm tour where farmers use an iPad or other technology to talk in real time from their barns to students in their classrooms. The pork council also has four pork producers who visit schools statewide to demonstrate how to properly cook pork and describe how the product goes from farm to table. In the current school year, these presenters visited more than 425 classrooms and reached over 8,000 students, said Meghann Winters, the pork council’s communications coordinator.
“Anytime that anybody reaches out to us, we’re happy to supply them with education materials for students and adults of all ages,” she said. “We’re always welcoming new requests.”
Ag Education and Promotion Resources: