The Iowa Senate’s Agriculture Committee this week approved a bill that would allow the so-called “corn check-off” go as high as three-cents per bushel.
Iowa Corn Growers Association lobbyist Mindy Larsen Poldberg says current state law limits the check-off to one-cent per bushel.”Farmers, they know that they’re currently paying one cent per bushel after the last referendum in 2012,” Larsen Poldberg says. “There could never be another referendum again, even if farmers wanted it, unless this bill passes.”
A bill creating the corn check-off — requiring farmers to pay a small portion of what they earn on each bushel of corn sold if farmers approve the move in a referendum — passed the Iowa legislature in 1976. In 1977, Iowa farmers voted to send one-tenth of a cent from each bushel sold to the Iowa Corn Promotion Board.
Since then farmers have voted four times to raise the check-off, but it now sits at the maximum allowed by law.
“And what this bill is trying to do by raising that cap to three cents is plan for the next 40 years,” Larsen Poldberg says, “or at least a few decades out.”
The bill has already cleared the Iowa House and now is eligible for debate in the Iowa Senate. The bill’s managers say about 51 million dollars would have been raised in 2013 if Iowa farmers were paying that top three-cent-per-bushel check-off rate.
For farmers who might have sticker shock at that number, Larsen Poldberg says that upper threshold won’t be reached anytime soon. “The goal is not to pass this bill and then immediately raise the check-off to three cents,” Larsen Poldberg says. “That is not going to happen.”
Check-off funds are managed by a group of farmers who’ve been elected to the Iowa Corn Promotion Board. Over the past four decades the board has used the check-off money to encourage use of high-fructose corn syrup and corn-based ethanol. The money also is used for research to find new uses for corn.
(Reporting by Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton, South Dakota)