Tuesday is something of an election day for Iowa corn growers. They’ll be voting on a proposed increase in the "checkoff," the fee they pay on every bushel of corn. Curt Jones, chairman of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, says checkoff funds are used for research, consumer education and promotion.

Jones says consumer education is vital, especially now. "As we found out just recently when we had a group from the United Grocers Association come out and lambaste ethanol and corn as being the reason for high food prices," Jones says, "we realized there was a lot of fronts that we need to cover."

The checkoff is deducted from a farmer’s check at the point of sale and growers can request a refund of checkoff dollars. Jones, a corn grower from Sioux Rapids in northwest Iowa, says checkoff-funded research has led to new uses for corn.

"We have the biodegradable plastics. They’re used all over the world for such things as erosion control to fiber used in clothing," he says. Other uses for corn in various forms range from integrated parts in new cars to water bottles. Jones encourages farmers to defend gains being made in the industry.

He says, "We think, as a corn producer, that you should be interested in not only developing new uses for your product but in protecting those products once we establish the uses." Any grower who marketed at least 250 bushels of corn in the last year is eligible to vote on the referendum.

If corn growers consent, the checkoff rate will be raised from one-half cent per bushel to three-quarters of a cent. Voting takes place at all I-S-U County Extension Offices from 8:30 A.M. until 4:30 P.M. on Tuesday.