This article provides a historical overview of the development of U.S. government-mandated commodity promotion. This form of promotion, known colloquially as the “checkoff,” is responsible for such memorable slogans as “Beef: It's What's for Dinner,” as well as research intended to boost consumption of agricultural products. The article argues that checkoffs represent an associational form of governance in which private organizations achieve public aims. Though they have been frequently challenged in courts and have garnered scrutiny from public health activists, checkoffs have been a durable form of agricultural regulation because they hide the heavy hand of government with the rhetoric of markets and self-help.
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