The Natural Stone Council (NSC), a collaborative organization representing business and trade associations serving the natural stone industry, announced the development of what will be a congressionally authorized “check-off” program, an industry-funded research and promotion effort that would expand the market for natural stone in the U.S. and increase demand of natural stone products.

Other industries - including avocado producers, cotton farmers, the pork industry and milk producers - have used the funds generated from their check-off program and experienced tremendous success through similar programs, the NSC reports, citing the popular “Got Milk?” campaign as just one example of this.

“Our goal is to increase the understanding of, preference for and consumption of natural stone,” said Gary Distelhorst, Chairman of the NSC’s Check-off Committee. “Our current marketing efforts aren’t sustainable based solely on the generous donations of industry members, so we are seeking a way to fairly fund research and promotion of natural stone that will benefit us all.”

Revenue from the check-off program would be administered and approved by the government-appointed Natural Stone Research & Promotion Board (NSRPB). This group would be representative of all industry segments, including importers, and would be responsible for allocating funds and approving business and marketing plans.

In order to move the program forward, Congress must pass special legislation to authorize a check-off program for natural stone. Cornerstone Government Affairs has been retained to work on behalf of the NSC to further the passage of this legislation in Congress. Both will work with the appropriate Federal agencies and Congress to achieve authorization of the natural stone check-off program. Ideally, the check-off program will be implemented by early 2010.

Research and promotion programs are authorized by federal legislation and are designed to strengthen the targeted industry in the marketplace while maintaining and expanding domestic and foreign markets. The programs are all fully funded by industry assessments. NSRPB members will be nominated by industry leaders and appointed officially by a cabinet secretary, who will also oversee the activities of the board and approve budgets, in order to assure compliance with the authorizing legislation.

For a list of frequently asked questions and more information regarding the Natural Stone Industry Check-off Program, and to see other research and promotion programs, please visit: www.genuinestone.org.