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Popping with the Popcorn Board

As I was skimming government agencies' websites for topical issues, a U.S. Department of Agriculture press release today sidetracked me. It seems that the Secretary of Agriculture has named three people to the “Popcorn Board.” It sounds like a fun board to serve on — one of its activities is research “to maintain and expand the popcorn market.” Another is “consumer information activities.” But it doesn't look like popcorn consumers have a role to play on the board — seems like you have to “process and distribute more than 4 million pounds of popcorn” each year. Do our tax dollars pay for the Popcorn Board? Not directly, as popcorn processors pay mandatory assessments for this program. Some producers have sued to get out from under these agricultural commodity promotion programs -- known as "checkoffs" — on the basis that such programs represented compelled speech and violated the First Amendment. The Popcorn Board has a lively website — complete with the sounds of corn kernels popping and with its own “Encyclopedia Popcornica.” And a Google search brought up 640,000 citations for “popping popcorn.” Maybe these joint marketing activities would still find supporters, even if they were voluntary.