Concrete Masonry Act opens door to checkoff referendum in 2019

The Concrete Masonry Products Research, Education and Promotion Act, authorizing concrete block and brick stakeholders to pursue an industry-wide referendum on a national commodity checkoff program, was signed into law last month as part of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018. If modeled after other national programs, a concrete masonry unit checkoff could entail collection of one or more cents per building block or brick sold, with a producer-contractor board allocating funds to research, education and promotion activities—all under federal agency oversight.

LogoAs the FAA package was routed to President Donald Trump, Cemex USA’s Major Ogilvie, who has served as national chair of a National Concrete Masonry Association-based checkoff initiative since 2010, noted: “This is a great day for our industry. We demonstrated a level of perseverance that is only matched by the resilience of the products that we manufacture. By standing together, we will not only strengthen our industry, but our communities. We applaud the members of Congress for recognizing that the small businesses in our industry can accomplish even greater things together if we can more effectively pool our resources.”

“Manufacturers and contractors invested a lot of time and energy to get to know their representatives and to share the impact of their businesses on local communities. We visited hundreds of congressional offices, secured nearly 300 bipartisan co-sponsors when we were a stand-alone bill, and we were frequently praised on Capitol Hill for doing this the ‘right way’.” Ogilvie also cited the efforts of the bill sponsors who worked within a bipartisan approach to figure out how to move the legislation in a challenging environment. Representatives Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Kathy Castor (D-FL) and Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) each acted as companion bill sponsors for the last three congressional terms.

“Our work is just beginning,” says 2018 NCMA Chairman Kent Waide (Ruby Concrete). “Congress did not create a concrete masonry checkoff program, they only authorized it. Our entire industry will now begin the earnest discussions about how we develop a program that is meaningful to concrete block manufacturers of all kinds—those large and small, those in all regions of the U.S., and those with all kinds of local market interests. We will present the value proposition to rationalize an increased investment to collectively promote the value of concrete masonry systems.”

An industry referendum on program creation would likely occur in mid-to-late 2019, with every concrete masonry producer accorded opportunity to vote. Numerous commodity checkoff programs already exist, many supporting farm or forest products under U.S. Department of Agriculture management. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) oversees additional programs for propane and heating oil. Concrete masonry products would be the first checkoff under the Department of Commerce, and the second related to construction products, alongside a USDA-enabled softwood lumber program.