USDA is proposing expanding the organic exemption from assessments under various commodity promotion programs administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), including dairy.

The action would apply the exemption from assessments to producers, handlers, marketers or importers of “organic” and “100% organic” products certified under the National Organic Program. The exemption would apply regardless of whether the person requesting the exemption for organic products also deals with non-organic products.

Currently, the exemption only applies to entities that solely produce, handle, market or import products that are certified 100% organic. The proposed rule – directed by the 2014 Farm Bill – would increase the number of organic industry entities eligible for assessment exemptions.

There are 22 national farmer checkoff-funded research and promotion programs, including the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board. Under these programs, producers of a particular agricultural product pay assessments to fund marketing campaigns and research initiatives that benefit their industry. Under the USDA proposal, eligible producers, marketers and importers would be exempt from paying assessments for these promotion programs on products certified as “organic” or “100% organic.”

Under federal marketing order programs, eligible handlers would be exempt from the portion of the total assessment that is designated for market promotion activities. There are 23 marketing order programs that have market promotion authority.

Notice of the proposed changes was to be published in the Dec. 16 Federal Register. Interested parties will have 30 days to review and submit comments.

For more information about these programs, contact Barry Broadbent, Senior Marketing Specialist, or Michelle Sharrow, Branch Chief, Marketing Order and Agreement Division, Fruit and Vegetable Program, AMS, USDA; Telephone: (202) 720-2491, or email:, or