Establishing a Sod Checkoff Program
What could the sod industry look like with a checkoff program? An industry that can Bring Grass to Life by:
- Fueling consumer preference for sod at their homes
- Increasing preference for sod in sports fields, educational environments and municipalities
- Funding research to better understand consumers, and educate regulators and lawmakers
- Above all, creating more value per square foot of sod
Members of the U.S sod production industry have investigated the interest and potential impact of a sod checkoff program. As of January 2021, a draft order that outlines the key points needed for an efficient, successful checkoff program has been written and submitted to USDA for review. Once approved, it will be published in the U.S. Federal Register for public viewing and commentary prior to a vote by the sod industry on its passage.
Once passed, the program will be implemented and governed by sod producers, for sod producers to help increase value and profitability per square foot. The program will seek to increase preference for sod, promote sod to consumers nationally and conduct research to educate and inform industry regulators and politicians among other initiatives.
A group of 14 sod producers makeup the Sod Checkoff Draft Formation Committee and have written the terms for a potential U.S. sod checkoff program. This draft order outlines the key points needed for an efficient, successful checkoff program, which must be approved by the USDA and voted upon by sod producers.
The committee submitted the draft order to the USDA in November 2020 and will spend the coming months working with them to approve the program. Once approved, the draft order will be published in the U.S. Federal Register for public viewing and commentary prior to a vote on its passage. This vote, which will be open to all sod producers in the U.S., will likely take place in Spring 2023.
Over the next several months at regional and state meetings, as well as at town hall forums, sod producers will have the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about why a checkoff will be beneficial.
If the draft order is approved by USDA we anticipate the program will include these key highlights.
- U.S. Sod Checkoff board members will be nominated by sod producers.
- The board will be composed of 13 members who are all sod producers serving 3-year voluntary terms and will include the following:
- 4 members from the northern U.S. where cool-season grasses are primarily grown
- 5 members from the southern U.S. where warm-season grasses are primarily grown
- 4 members from the transition zone region and California where cool and warm-season grasses are grown
- The proposed assessment rate is 1/10th of one penny per square foot of sod sold annually.
- The proposed assessments will be submitted quarterly to the U.S. Sod Checkoff Board.
- The U.S. Sod Checkoff Board will propose and submit an annual budget for how all funds are to be used for research, marketing and promotion, developing new markets, etc.
- All U.S. sod farms must contribute with no exemptions or exceptions.
- The order will not become effective unless approved by a simple majority (50% + one vote) of sod producers voting in the initial referendum, which are engaged in the production and sale of natural grass sod products in the U.S.
How it Works
The checkoff program collects quarterly assessments from every sod producer in the U.S. based on sales, which will then be used to fund research, national consumer advertising and promotions, equip growers with localized marketing tools, inform and educate key industry stakeholders and more. The results from these initiatives will then provide greater return on investment for all producers.