Agricultural Marketing:

Federally Authorized Commodity Research and Promotion Programs

RCED-94-63: Published: Dec 29, 1993. Publicly Released: Jan 13, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Agricultural Marketing Service's (AMS) agricultural commodity research and promotion programs, focusing on the extent of: (1) check-off fund use; (2) AMS oversight; and (3) oversight coordination between AMS and other Department of Agriculture (USDA) agencies.

GAO found that: (1) as of 1992, 11 of the 18 authorized check-off boards have been active and have completed at least 1 full year of operations; (2) during 1992, the 11 active check-off boards collected about $250 million in assessments from agricultural producers and handlers and spent most of the funds on promoting commodities in the domestic market; (3) the check-off boards sponsor research, administer consumer and producer information programs, and fund general and administrative expenses; (4) although AMS is responsible for ensuring that check-off programs comply with authorizing legislation and evaluating dairy program effectiveness, individual check-off boards are responsible for evaluating general program effectiveness; (5) AMS reviews check-off boards' budgets, projects, and contracts to prevent the boards from engaging in prohibited activities; (6) check-off boards reimburse AMS for its oversight services and USDA charges the boards for any legal services it provides; (7) AMS coordinates its check-off program oversight activities with many USDA agencies; and (8) oversight coordination varies depending on the agency involved and the activity performed.

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