Grain Foods Foundation petitions USDA to drop wheat checkoff programme

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

'The way forward for our industry is with strength [and] belief in the incredible story around the products we make'. Pic: GettyImages/jeffbergen
'The way forward for our industry is with strength [and] belief in the incredible story around the products we make'. Pic: GettyImages/jeffbergen

Related tags Grain Foods Foundation Grains Wheat Usda mandatory programme American bakers association Wheat Flour Foods Promotion, Research, and Information Order Flowers foods Bimbo bakeries usa Grain Craft

Industry disagreement has ‘undermined plans’ to establish a national checkoff programme to promote and strengthen consumers demand for bread-based products.

The Grain Foods Foundation (GFF) has petitioned the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to withdraw the Wheat Flour Foods Promotion, Research, and Information Order from further consideration, citing its efforts would be better served elsewhere.

The proposed Order – first mooted by the GFF in 2019 – is an industry-effort to establish a programme headed by a board composed of millers and bakers to strengthen consumer demand for wheat-flour bread, rolls, buns, bagels, pita and so forth. If established, the programme would be implemented under the Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information Act of 1996.

In the US, a commodity checkoff programme collects funds from producers through a mandatory funding mechanism to promote and do research on that particular commodity.

Not a fit

On 10 May, the GFF’s Board of Trustrees voted to withdraw the Oder from USDA consideration, noting it is ‘not a fit’ and marshalling resources in other directions would better serve its mission and work.

The USDA’s withdrawal will cancel the publication of the Order in The Federal Register; a subsequent public comment period; and following that, an industry referendum.

“As vested stakeholders in this industry GFF supports, the Board agreed that the checkoff conversation has become a distraction to the work GFF needs to do on behalf of the whole industry,”​ said Kirk Stehr, GFF co-chair and senior VP of Grain Craft.

“GFF has enjoyed unprecedented success year after year, even during the COVID pandemic, and the GFF Board wants to do everything in our power to share this success with our industry and to make sure resources are available to continue to grow this work.”  

Added Debo Mukherjee, GFF co-chair and chief marketing officer of Flowers Foods, “The challenges facing our industry today are perhaps even more intense than those faced in 2004, when GFF was formed.

“Our Board is committed to continuing to push against anti-carb and anti-grain messages through the strong work of GFF in research and science-based messaging initiatives.” 

The Order

The Order was the result of a 2016 industry checkoff feasibility study to analyse the implications of the decline in the per capita consumption of wheat flour in the US., undertaken by GFF at the request of its members, specifically those common to related associations such as the American Bakers Association and North American Millers’ Association (NAMA).

The study included a review of potential creative assets to be utilised in a consumer campaign, as well as a framework for scientific research to protect the market.

In 2019, the GFF submitted a draft proposal to the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) for the Order. This was rescinded in 2020 to include additional info and re-submitted in 2021, along with updated analysis, justification and letters of support from various industry groups.

Our incredible story

“No one in our industry has been untouched by the realities of the COVID pandemic, labour shortages, supply chain challenges and commodity market volatility,”​ said Vince Melchiorre, GFF Board member and senior VP & GM of Bimbo Bakeries USA.

“The baking and milling industries are known for being a family of great companies. The way forward for our industry is to understand that the checkoff opportunity is not a fit for us and to move forward with strength, belief in the incredible story around the products we make, and a vision for GFF that delivers research leadership and thought advocacy.”

The Grain Foods Foundation – formed in 2004 – is a group of thought leaders and advocates for all grain foods, committed to providing members, industry and the public with fact-based information and nutrition education rooted in science.

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