Within the next 10 days, two separate hearings will be examining a dozen agricultural marketing boards that control upwards of $300 million in media spending. Now two congressmen are looking to broaden the examination to focus on whether those boards are adequately using minority media.
A hearing March 3 by a House Appropriations Committee panel will review the Agricultural Marketing Service's appropriation and also is expected to question agriculture officials on their supervision of the ad campaigns.
Then, on March 8 and 9, the task force's Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, appointed late last year, will try and determine how the Agriculture Department's oversight of campaigns such as "Got milk?" "The incredible edible egg" and "The other white meat" should be strengthened.
During the hearings, each board will be asked to explain how it determines its campaigns' effectiveness and what its financial controls are.
Last week, spokesmen for U.S. Reps. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D., Mich.) and Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) said they had begun studying the programs' advertising, and are developing plans to bring concerns to the congressional panel that the boards' media plans may not make enough use of minority-media vehicles.
An Agriculture Inspector General's report on the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board in late September questioned the Agriculture Department's oversight of its milk marketing money. The report suggested the account, with Bozell, New York, hadn't gone through competitive bidding, and it also questioned whether the department had done sufficient research to assure the campaign's effectiveness.
An investigation into the Cotton Board by The Washington Post, meanwhile, found it had allocated some of its funds to entertaining people at bars and restaurants and shelled out $450,000 for a party at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Some of the boards are expected to argue the industry groups that choose to assess producers for the funding should control the marketing programs rather than the government. But the Agriculture Department has maintained it must review procedures for spending, awarding marketing contracts and evaluating advertising's effectiveness for purposes "legitimate under the law."
12 BOARDS INVOLVED
The 12 boards being examined are the American Egg Board, Cattlemen's Beef Promotion & Research Board, Cotton Board, Honey Board, Mushroom Council, National Dairy Promotion & Research Board, National Fluid Milk Processor Board, National Pork Board, National Potato Promotion Board, National Watermelon Promotion Board, Popcorn Board and United Soybean Board.
Most of the boards contract with industry associations for advertising programs.