Sod producers in the U.S. have been discussing the benefits of creating a sod checkoff since 1996, but only in recent years has there been more intentional discussion around how the industry can begin that process.
The goal of any checkoff program is to increase product demand and/or expand markets. For the sod industry specifically, the checkoff program will seek to Bring Grass to Life and increase value and profitability per square foot. This can include programs that will increase preference for sod, promote sod to consumers nationally and conduct research to educate and inform industry regulators and politicians.
Dr. Casey Reynolds, TPI Executive Director, has been a powerful voice behind the effort, rallying the industry around the benefits of an industry-wide checkoff.
“The sod checkoff will benefit every producer and farm by increasing visibility and value of sod that includes driving preference for natural grass sod with both consumers and customers, and by uniting the U.S. sod industry to protect and even grow market share in the face of threats from misinformation, building codes that seek to reduce our market, grass bans, and even competitors like artificial turf and others that compete for our space,” said Reynolds.
How Would a Sod Checkoff Impact You?
Checkoff programs are industry-funded initiatives that help improve the market position of agricultural products. A sod checkoff would help showcase the value of natural grass in several ways, including the following:
- The checkoff can help fight against regulations like grass bans, fertilizer bans, invasive species lists, building codes,
- Marketing can help combat competitive products in the marketplace
- Research can help gain insights into generational attitudes towards lawns, which are currently shifting in the wrong direction, and consumer messaging can educate consumers on the benefits of natural grass
- Scientific research on ecosystem services can change the narrative around lawns and other green spaces and showcase the value that natural grass brings to urban and suburban areas
- A network can be established for monitoring headlines for negative media and responding to them swiftly, effectively, and in unison with one voice
- Marketing tools can help farms access and promote their products locally, to achieve a consistent message across the industry
“The benefits of combining our resources and our voices through a sod checkoff will be seen in everything that we do. Quality of our products, the stewardship on our resources, the demand for natural grass and especially on our bottom line. This is the opportunity to work together and take our industry to a much higher level with so many opponents it may be the only chance we have to pass our businesses on to the next generation,” said Bob McCurdy.
Getting the Process Started
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 the USDA for review. Once approved, it will be published in the
U.S. Federal Register for public viewing and commentary prior to a vote in spring of 2022.
If passed by a majority vote of U.S. sod producers, the program will be implemented and governed by sod producers who are nominated by fellow producers. This group will invest checkoff dollars in national and consumer marketing collateral, agronomic and consumer research, promotional kits that can be customized by growers and customer and regulator education and outreach, to help increase value and profitability per square foot of sod for the U.S. sod industry. The proposed assessment rate is 1/10 of one penny for every square foot of sod sold.
With a checkoff, the U.S. sod industry can bring producers across the country together to change the narrative around the benefits of natural grass. Please consider voting yes in the upcoming referendum, so we can finally give our industry the unified voice it needs to protect and grow markets for many years to come.
If you are interested in learning more about the US Sod Checkoff, please visit www.sodcheckoff.org.