Membership organization communication: an interpretive analysis of agricultural producers' perspectives on relationships with checkoff organizations



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Texas Tech University


In the agricultural industry, checkoff organizations operate under a legislative mandate to educate the public about the commodities they represent while increasing demand and developing new uses for the commodities. Producers of each commodity are also required to pay a percentage of their income to fund these activities. Recent conflicts between some checkoff organizations and their producers have raised questions about the constitutionality of the checkoff system. Specifically, some producers do not believe their checkoff organizations are appropriately representing producers' values in the marketing campaigns they select. The past decade has been marked by accusations from both parties in the courts and in the media. At the same time, other producers who are less vocal in the media appreciate the services their checkoff organization provides to them. This study explored producers' perspectives on the relationship they have with their checkoff organization, looking specifically at the way they communicate about their checkoff organization(s) and the way they describe communication phenomena specific to the producer/checkoff organization relationship. The research was guided by the constructivist paradigm and grounded theory, and the data collected included verbal accounts and brief questionnaire responses gathered from beef, cotton, and peanut producers in West Texas during focus groups and in-depth interviews. This research holds important clues about what members of mandatory membership organizations expect as part of that relationship, and the findings should be especially relevant to the larger audience of member organization administrators.