Livestock Checkoff Programs 101

Amy Barkley, Livestock Specialist
Southwest New York Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops Program

February 5, 2024
Livestock Checkoff Programs 101

Livestock Checkoff Programs 101

You may have heard of checkoff programs, but aren't sure exactly what they are, or what they mean to you as a livestock producer. This article sheds some light on the basics.


What's a Checkoff?

Checkoffs are programs developed as acts of Congress. Their purpose is to drive demand for agricultural commodities by funding research, education, and promotion. Some checkoff-funded initiatives that you may be familiar with are, "Pork. The Other White Meat", "Beef. It's What's for Dinner", or "The Incredible, Edible Egg".  

Those working for the checkoff are, under no circumstances, allowed to lobby; other organizations that you may be familiar with such as Farm Bureau, National Cattleman's Beef Association, and the National Pork Producers Council do this work independently of checkoff dollars.


What Livestock Commodities are included?

There are currently 22 checkoffs in the US that are overseen by the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service. Each of the checkoffs are run by a research and promotion board. Those of pertinent to livestock production include The Cattleman's Beef Board, The National Pork Board, American Lamb Board, American Egg Board, and the The National Honey Board.


Who Pays into it?

Producers are required to pay into the checkoff by law based on sales of their commodity. Both domestic producers and importers are required to pay it. Organic commodities are not subject to remitting checkoff dollars, which is the result of a variance that was written into the law to help expand the organic market.


How is the checkoff calculated?

Checkoff calculations are not one size fits all. Each one has different computations, which are listed below. That said, all producers selling these commodities must pay into the checkoff. There are a couple of exemptions listed below.

  • Beef: $1 per head sold. This includes both cattle and calves from both beef and dairy operations.
  • Pork: $0.35 per $100 of sale price. This includes weaned pigs, feeder pigs, market hogs, and seed stock animals. Each time the animal changes production classes (ie weaned pig to feeder or feeder to market hog), the assessment is collected, with the same producer never being assessed twice for the same animal.
  • Lamb: A live weight assessment of $0.007 per pound and a first handler assessment of $0.42 per head. This includes all sheep and lambs of any age, including ewes, rams, feeder and market lambs, breeders, and cull animals.
  • Eggs: $0.10 for every 30-dozen case sold. Farmers producing eggs from under 75,000 laying hens can request an exemption from paying assessments.
  • Honey: $0.015 per pound. Farmer marketing less than 250,000 pounds of honey a year are exempt.

How do I submit my Checkoff?

Each producer is responsible for submitting their own checkoff dollars each time an animal is sold. Payments are due by the 15th of the month following the transaction. Depending on the checkoff, you can submit a check or use an online secure payment portal. You can go to your respective commodity's website to learn more and pay your checkoff.


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Upcoming Events

2024 Aurora Farm Field Day

Event Offers DEC Credits

August 1, 2024
Aurora, NY

The annual Cornell Field Crop Research Field Day will be Thursday, August 1 at the Musgrave Research Farm, Aurora, N.Y. The program features walking and hay wagon tours in the morning and afternoon. 

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2024 Broiler Field Day at Laughing Earth Farm

August 19, 2024 : 2024 Broiler Field Day at Laughing Earth Farm
Cropseyville, NY

Join us for a free field day to explore broiler production, processing, and finances. Zack and Annie Metzger will be our hosts. They have run this 200 year-old small diversified farm for 8 years. They process their poultry in a 20C kitchen, where they produce value-added products like sausage and dehydrated chicken feet.

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2024 Broiler Field Day at Majestic Farm

August 20, 2024 : 2024 Broiler Field Day at Majestic Farm
Mountaindale, NY

Join us for a free field day to explore broiler production, processing, and finances. Brett and Sara Budde will be our hosts. They raise slow-growth organic broilers on their diversified farm in large flocks on woodland pasture. Their birds are processed into whole birds, parts, and chicken sausage.

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