Iowa House Passes Corn Checkoff Bill, Now It Goes To Senate

Iowa House Passes Corn Checkoff Bill, Now It Goes To Senate

This legislation, which proposes to raise the cap on the statewide checkoff, now moves to the Senate for debate.

On March 4, 2014 the Iowa House of Representatives passed HF 2427 which contains proposed changes to the Iowa corn checkoff. The Iowa Corn Growers Association is registered in support of the bill. This legislation, now known as HF 2427, has been significantly amended since it was originally introduced as HSB 524 at the beginning of the 2014 legislative session. As explained by Mindy Larsen Poldberg, government affairs director for ICGA, the bill contains the following provisions:

CORN CHECKOFF: A bill in the Iowa Legislature would raise the legislative cap on the state corn checkoff to a maximum of 3 cents per bushel; it's now one cent per bushel. Any increase in the rate farmers pay would be made by a farmer referendum.

Raises the cap on the statewide corn checkoff. HF 2427 raises the legislative cap for the corn checkoff 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 5 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 "one 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 the corn checkoff was created and first approved by farmers in a referendum in 1976.

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Creates an advisory panel. If this bill currently being debated 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 and voting procedures, and checkoff refund awareness. The task force would include the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture as well as representatives from ICGA, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Institute of Coops, 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.

Why ICGA supports this legislation. ICGA supports raising the legislative cap on the checkoff, as this bill provides. If the cap is not raised from one cent per bushel (which is today's legislative maximum amount), the legislature will maintain authority over the corn checkoff rate. If the cap is not raised, only the state legislature could decide the appropriate time to allow for a referendum in the future, instead of farmers making that decision on whether and when to hold a referendum.

"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 HF 2427, 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 referendum 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 agricultural world today, especially as emerging issues arise."

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She adds, "Our work on getting this bill passed is not done; we must successfully pass the bill through the Senate Agriculture Committee followed by the full Iowa Senate. Then it can be sent to the governor and signed into law."

Iowa Legislature reaches a 2015 "budget number" agreement
In other news from the Iowa Statehouse last week, on March 5 the Iowa House and Senate leaders announced an agreement on the state's budget target for Fiscal Year 2015. The agreement sets a $6.97 billion budget for FY2015 which will begin July 1, 2014. As various committees in the Iowa Legislature begin discussing specific budget appropriations, the Iowa Corn Growers Association will work to support funding for projects such as: the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship budget requests, implementation of Iowa water quality initiative, the Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, ISU Extension, ISU Agriculture Experiment Station, and other agriculture-related research.

ICGA's "Day on the Hill" to be held March 26, 2014
All corn grower members are invited to attend the ICGA "Day on the Hill" at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on March 26, 2014. Registration will start at 9:30 a.m., and an issues briefing will begin at 10:00 a.m. at the Embassy Suites (101 East Locust Street, Des Moines, IA 50309) followed by lunch at 11:30 a.m. The group will then travel to the capitol to meet with state legislators from approximately 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Click here to register for the event, and use the password: DOTH14. Please RSVP by March 21. If you have questions on this event, contact the ICGA office at 515-225-9242 or [email protected].

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