NCMA’s promotion-wise Check-Off program climbs Capitol Hill

Sources: CP staff; National Concrete Masonry Association, Herndon, Va.

By Don Marsh

Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL-19) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2) have introduced a bill enabling creation of a Concrete Masonry Board to oversee a generic promotion, research and information awareness program on behalf of U.S. block producers and importers. Operating with up to 25 members under Secretary of Commerce authority, the board could support the program—modeled after other industries’ “check-off” initiatives—by assessing producers or importers 1 to 5 cents/concrete masonry unit sold in the United States.

Reps. Shimkus and Baldwin referred “Concrete Masonry Products Research, Education, and Promotion Act of 2011’’ to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, in which they both serve, plus the House Ways & Means Committee. H.R. 3395 culminates nearly two years of industry consensus building and persistence on Capitol Hill, notes NCMA; if passed, it paves the way to an industry-wide referendum on establishing the check-off program.

Per-unit assessments would fund what the association characterizes as “massive increases in product research and development, market promotion, and educational outreach for designers and builders in the construction industry.” NCMA launched a website in early 2011 to provide information on potential check-off programs covering member and nonmember CMU producers and marketers. As demonstrated in agriculture, lumber and other industries, check-off programs provide a mechanism by which every producer supports research, education and promotion efforts intended to expand markets.

H.R. 3395 co-sponsorship is Rep. Shimkus’ second undertaking this fall on behalf of concrete interests. Last month, he led the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2011 through the House Energy and Commerce Subcomittee on Environment and the Economy, which he chairs, setting the stage for passage in Energy and Commerce Committee and on the House floor. Now before the Senate, the Act a) empowers states to manage handling and disposal of concrete-grade fly ash lesser coal combustion residuals; and, b) prohibits Environmental Protection Agency measures leading to such materials’ designation as hazardous waste.