The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

State News

July 7, 2014

Law allows for votes to increase corn checkoff

DES MOINES — One of the dozens of new laws enacted this month would allow an increase in the amount of money collected from each bushel of Iowa corn sold to promote the grain.

To increase the Iowa corn checkoff under law, the Iowa Corn Promotion Board must request a vote of corn growers in a referendum run by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

Currently, the checkoff generates around $15 million to $20 million annually, which goes toward researching additional uses for corn, market development, export expansion, education and promotion.

The checkoff was first approved in 1977 and initially collected one-tenth of a cent per bushel of corn sold. Farmers most recently voted in 2012 to authorize a rate of 1 cent per bushel — the maximum rate set in the original law.

That led to the Iowa Legislature amending the law this session so the rate could be increased, though the CEO of the Iowa Corn Growers Association says there are no plans to ask for a referendum in the near future.

“It just enables us over time, should farmers want to, to go up again in whatever increments they choose,” said Craig Floss, whose trade group has about 7,800 farmers.

The new law signed in March by Gov. Terry Branstad allows the checkoff to go up to 2 cents prior to Aug. 31, 2019, and up to 3 cents after that date.

The corn growers association lobbies on agricultural issues and works with the Iowa Corn Promotion Board to use the checkoff money for high-profile promotions, such as sponsoring an Indy Car race to promote ethanol.

The 2012 increase helped pay for additional advertising and educational outreach after a national debate developed over whether so much corn was being used for ethanol that it was causing food prices to climb.

Many corn farmers thought information put out by ethanol opponents and others about corn was inaccurate and they wanted more promotion to defend the industry, Floss said.

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