Vote To Increase Iowa Corn Checkoff Passes

Vote To Increase Iowa Corn Checkoff Passes

Preliminary results of last week's referendum to increase corn checkoff in Iowa show that it passes; official results are yet to be certified.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship and the Iowa Corn Promotion Board on July 12 released the preliminary results from the statewide referendum to increase the corn checkoff. The vote was held July 10 across Iowa. The preliminary results show a solid positive vote in favor of increasing the Iowa corn checkoff rate by one-fourth of a cent per bushel. The increase takes it from the current three-fourths of a cent per bushel to a new rate of 1 cent per bushel, effective September 1, 2012.

Supporters of the checkoff increase say the money will be used to combat negative comments about corn products and corn's primary customers—the ethanol industry and livestock producers.

With results submitted from nearly all counties and most absentee ballots counted, currently over 70% of those who voted supported the increase. A simple majority is needed to pass the referendum.

Iowa's new corn checkoff rate will be 1 cent per bushel as of September 1

In accordance with Iowa Code, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship conducted the vote and has 30 days to officially certify the results. The corn checkoff is collected on corn that enters commercial channels, but not on grain used on-farm. The last increase in the checkoff was in 2008 when it was raised to ¾ cent per bushel marketed.

The Iowa corn checkoff was established by producer referendum in 1977. The Iowa Corn Promotion Board, made up of farmers elected by their peers, invests the checkoff dollars for research, education, promotion and market development. For more information on how checkoff dollars are used, you can contact the Iowa Corn Promotion Board at 515-225-9242 or find out more online at www.IowaCorn.org.

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Corn farmers in Iowa will soon begin paying 1 cent, the maximum allowed by law

Now that the increase is approved, farmers will pay 1 cent, the maximum allowed by law, for every bushel that enters commercial channels. Anyone who raised at least 250 bushels of corn from Sept. 1, 2010 to Aug. 31, 2011 is eligible to vote.

The checkoff has generated $13 million to $15 million annually the last few years, depending on acres planted and productivity, according to the Iowa Corn Growers Association. The Iowa Corn Promotion Board, made up of farmers elected by their peers, invests the checkoff dollars. The money is spent on research, promotion, market development and education efforts. That won't change, says Deb Keller, board chairwoman who farms with her husband and family near Clarion. The reason the checkoff was put up for the increase is because more money is needed to educate people about agriculture as they become further disconnected from the land.

Checkoff increase was needed to be used to help corn defend its image

Advocates of the checkoff increase also say more cash is required to combat negative comments about corn products and the industry's primary customers—the ethanol industry and livestock producers. "We're the No. 1 corn-producing state, but people don't understand we're not growing sweet corn. We're fighting for our image, and that's what the new dollars will go for," says Keller.

Now that it is approved, an extra $4 million will be raised, ICPB officials estimate. The new checkoff rate will cost a grower $1.80 per acre or 45 cents more per acre, based on a yield of 180 bushels per acre.

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Iowa corn promotion board recently unveiled five spending priorities:

Farmer Image: Address misinformation, improve consumer understanding and engage in the food and fuel debate.

Ethanol Image: Address stability, increased usage, marketplace education and promote higher blends.

Support Livestock and Poultry Industries: Collaborate with livestock groups, research feed use and availability and animal well-being.

Sustainability: Address corn production, environment, conservation and the public's perception of sustainable agriculture.

Research: Address new technologies, yield growth, genetics, traits and improved value-added opportunities.

Anti-ethanol, anti-livestock, anti-corn syrup groups are targeting ethanol

Nick Leibold, a rural New Hampton farmer and one of 17 board members, says oil companies, sugar producers and animal rights groups are all spending big money to discourage the use of ethanol, high fructose corn syrup and meat consumption, three of the biggest reasons why corn farmers are enjoying historic prices and demand.

"We think it's vital to our profitability to defend our major markets," Leibold says.

If a farmer doesn't want to contribute to the checkoff, he or she can file for a refund. Though checkoff funds are automatically deducted from grain checks when corn is sold at elevators or processors in Iowa, it's not a mandatory program, says Keller. Farmers are able to get their contributions back, and that ability will not be affected by the vote.

Farmers can get refunds if they don't want to participate in corn checkoff

Iowa farmers decided to initially increase the amount checked off and also decided to charge themselves one-tenth of a cent 35 years ago -- approving increases in the checkoff in 1986, 1994 and 1998 –- to help expand markets, expand corn production and to boost profits. Producers in Iowa grew and produced a little more than 1 billion bushels in 1977, which sold for an average price of $1.99 per bushel.

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Last year Iowa farmers raised nearly 2.4 billion bushels. The average price statewide during the marketing year was $6.15 per bushel

"Looking back, 30 years of promoting our own products and helping to fund research has paid big dividends," says Pam Johnson, a farmer and former board chair and first vice president of the National Corn Growers Association. Checkoff dollars have helped develop better-producing corn hybrids, innovative products like plastics made from corn and the checkoff has also helped to build the ethanol industry into a corn processing giant. "When times are good, that's not the time to let up," says Don Mason, director of grower services for ICGA. A survey by ICGA, prior to last week's referendum, showed 72% of the state's corn growers support the checkoff.

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