Perhaps you've been hearing about the ongoing egg saga...the one involving Hampton Creek's "Just Mayo" and the American Egg Board's efforts to get it taken off Whole Foods shelves. Or, on a related note, the early resignation of the Egg Board's CEO. This seems to be the controversy that just doesn't go away, and behind it all is whether the American Egg Board, one of the 20 or so USDA "checkoff programs," acted outside its scope. Now USDA is formally investigating.
What's a "checkoff program" anyway? Think "Got Milk?" or "Pork: The Other White Meat." Or, in this case "The Incredible, Edible Egg." Essentially advertising and promotion programs, groups of commodity suppliers come together to bolster their bottom line. They help market a particular commodity (rather than a specific brand), are funded entirely by industry and overseen by USDA's Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS). This page has a list of all the checkoff programs, which range from the Popcorn Board to the Mushroom Council.
Back to eggs and USDA. The investigation has started and USDA has said that it is "committed to establishing a level playing field that protects and promotes all appropriate agricultural endeavors." It said it did not "condone any efforts to limit competing products in commerce" and that its administrative review would take "some time" to complete."
There's continued questions over whether checkoff programs need a revamp, and whether the scope of their work and the oversight by USDA has become dated. The egg narrative is a good reminder that these exist, and how these all too familiar slogans become household lingo.