The Iowa Corn Growers Association wants state lawmakers to pass a bill that would support farmer control of the state corn checkoff. The bill was amended last week and passed the House ag committee, which means it survived the funnel deadline. So it is still alive. Next, the bill must pass the full House and also work its way through the Iowa Senate before it could go to the governor for him to sign and become law.
On Wednesday, February 19, the House Agriculture Committee passed legislation known as HSB 524 which relates to the Iowa Corn Checkoff. The bill, as passed by the House Agriculture committee, has been significantly amended since it was introduced earlier in the 2014 Legislative session. After a study bill passes through a committee it becomes a "committee bill" and a new bill number will be assigned showing all the amendments that are outlined below. The new bill number has not yet been assigned, but will be soon. "The Iowa Corn Growers Association will register in support of the new bill," says Mindy Larsen Poldberg, director of government affairs for ICGA.
The amendment to HSB 524 struck the entire bill and inserted the following items:
HSB 524 raises the legislative cap for the corn checkoff. The language now in the bill proposes raising the cap to a total of 3 cents, in the following manner: one additional cent (cap of 2 cents) available beginning 9/1/14 and a second cent (cap of 3 cents) available five years later, beginning 9/1/19. As a reminder, nothing in this bill raises the checkoff rate that the farmer pays; any increase in the checkoff rate may only be made by farmer referendum.
Also, note that in a future referendum, the Iowa Corn Promotion Board's recommendation to corn farmers for the referendum is not necessarily "1 cent" but the amount requested may be any amount within the new cap (such as past proposed increases of 1/10 cent, or 1/4 cent depending on the specific need for the referendum). Any decision regarding the checkoff rate would continue to be in the hands of Iowa corn farmers via referendum, just as it was when created by farmers in 1976.
The bill creates an advisory group. If the bill is passed and becomes law, it would create a task force, chaired by the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, to review and provide recommendations on two issues: referendum ballot/vote and checkoff refund awareness. The task force would include the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture as well as representatives from the ICGA, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Institute of Co-ops, Iowa Agribusiness Association, plus ex-officio appointments of four legislators: two by the House and two by the Senate. The task force would be required to report on the specified topics by September 1, 2014 and would then dissolve.
ICGA supports raising the legislative cap, as this bill provides. If the cap is not raised from 1 cent per bushel (today's legislative maximum amount) then the Iowa Legislature will maintain authority over the corn checkoff rate. If the cap is not raised, only the government could decide the appropriate time to allow for a referendum in the future, instead of farmers.
"We commend the House Agriculture committee members for recognizing this and working with ICGA and other impacted parties to craft this compromise amendment," says Poldberg. "By raising the cap in HSB 524, Iowa corn farmers will be able to plan for decades to come and protect their checkoff by having farmer-elected leaders select the recommended checkoff rate and allowing all farmers to vote in the referendum. Iowa Corn believes that corn farmers should maintain control of the Iowa corn checkoff to best meet the immediate education, research and market development needs in our quickly changing and evolving world today, especially as emerging ag issues arise."
Of course, our work on passing this bill is not done; we must successfully pass the bill through the Iowa House and then work with the Iowa Senate," she says.
Corn grower delegates representing Iowa at Commodity Classic
Many Iowa Corn delegates and staff are attending the National Corn Growers Association's annual meeting—the Commodity Classic—in San Antonio, Texas February 26 to March 1. Commodity Classic is NCGA's policy development conference and is attended by delegates from around the nation. Commodity Classic attendees also have the opportunity to experience educational sessions, networking opportunities and a trade show.
At the NCGA Priority and Policy conference held in January, the Iowa Corn Growers Association proposed several resolutions from the ICGA Annual Meeting, held last August. These resolutions will now move to Commodity Classic, where they will be debated and voted on for inclusion in NCGA's policy book. Some of ICGA's proposed resolution topics for NCGA to consider are:
- Regulatory process for biotechnology events
- Duplication of Environmental Impact Statements
- Farmer protection for approved biotechnology products
- Conservation compliance procedures to protect farmers
- Crop insurance implementation, producer crop insurance subsidies and government cost share, cover crop rule interpretation, farm bill, funding for corn research, and USDA crop report accuracy.