On March 18, 2014 the Iowa Senate passed HF 2427, by a vote of 46-0. This legislation, if it is signed into law, will do several things regarding the Iowa Corn checkoff. The Iowa Corn Growers Association supports the bill, which will now move to Iowa Governor Terry Branstad for his approval. According to Mindy Larsen Poldberg, director of government affairs for ICGA, the bill contains the following provisions:
Raises the legislative cap: HF 2427 raises the legislative ceiling for the corn checkoff to a total of 3 cents, in the following manner: one additional cent (cap of 2 cents) available beginning September 1, 2014 and a second cent (cap of 3 cents) available 5 years later, beginning September 1, 2019.
Nothing in this bill raises the checkoff rate per bushel that the farmer pays. Any increase in the checkoff rate may only be made by farmer referendum. Also, in a future referendum, the Iowa Corn Promotion Board's recommendation to corn farmers for the referendum is not necessarily "one cent"—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 a referendum, just as it was when the corn checkoff was started by farmers in 1976.
Creates a task force. The bill also establishes a committee chaired by the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, to review and provide recommendations on two issues: the referendum ballot and voting procedures, and checkoff refund awareness. The task force would include the 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 Iowa House and two by the Iowa Senate. The task force would be required to report on the specified topics by September 1, 2014 and would then dissolve.
This bill does not raise the checkoff, ICGA officials emphasize
The Iowa corn checkoff legislation was originally passed in 1976 and set the ceiling for a maximum of one cent per bushel. That was considered to be a high enough level that corn grower leaders would not need to come back to the Legislature and ask for an increase for a long, long time. ICGA held a statewide referendum of all Iowa farmers who grew corn and set the original checkoff rate at one-tenth of a cent per bushel.
Why raise the cap now? "ICGA supports raising the legislative cap, as this HF 2427 bill provides," says Poldberg. "If the cap is not raised from one cent per bushel—which is today's maximum amount, as set by state law—then 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."
By raising the cap as provided 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," she adds.
U.S. House passes bill on farm fuel storage rules
In other news, the ICGA reports that the U.S. Congress is considering legislation pertaining to fuel storage on farms. On March 11, 2014 the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship Act or H.R. 311. This bill is related to fuel storage regulations and it passed the U.S. House by a voice vote. The bill, if it moves on through Congress and is eventually signed into law, would alter the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rules regarding fuel storage on farms.
Currently, the SPCC rule applies to facilities which have an aggregate aboveground storage capacity greater than 1,320 gallons or a completely buried storage capacity greater than 42,000 gallons. In the bill, exemption levels for single above-ground storage containers would be increased to 10,000 gallons, and it would move the aggregate level on a production facility to 42,000 gallons. The bill would put more responsibility on the farmer to self-certify compliance, rather than requiring certification from an engineer. In October 2013, the Iowa Corn Growers Association sent a letter to U.S. House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders encouraging SPCC regulation revision so that the rules reflect a producer's spill risk and financial resources.