Ag Bills Head Down Homestretch in Legislature

Corn checkoff passes House in watered-down version.

Published on: Apr 18, 2007

The Indiana House of Representatives last week passed their version of the Indiana Corn Checkoff Bill by a wide margin. It went to the floor after consideration and amendment in the House Agriculture Committee. The bill passed easily in the committee as well.

However, significant changes occurred to the bill while in the House. Their version calls for only a one-fourth cent voluntary check-off, not one-half cent per bushel, as approved in the Senate version. One year ago the House passed a version that called for one-half percent of the value of a bushel to be deducted for checkoff uses. Last year's House was controlled by Republicans, and corn was $2-$2.25 per bushel. This year's House is controlled by Democrats, and corn is around $3.50 per bushel.

The bill started in the House in '06, but in the Senate in '07. House leaders said they wouldn't entertain the bill this year unless it passed the Senate first, since it passed easily in the House last year, but died suddenly when the chairman of the Senate Ag Committee refused to hear the bill.

Some backers were surprised, therefore, when the bill ran into trouble in the House. First it was pigeon-holed in the Rules Committee, and for a time, appeared to once again be dead, this time shot down by House leadership. Representative Dale Grubb, a Democrat, finally agreed to sponsor the bill, and it was moved to the Ag committee. However, he is reportedly one of those who insisted on several changes.

The other major change involves the referendum after approximately three years. The House version would replace the referendum with this mechanism: after three years, results would be monitored for 12 months. If requests for refunds exceed 25%, the checkoff would cease.

The idea for the monitoring plan instead of a referendum is agreeable to Don Villwock, an Edwardsport, Ind., farmer and president of Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc. In fact, he was in favor of such a plan from the beginning, instead of a referendum. He believes such a plan eliminates the cost of voting at a later time, as is mandated under the Senate version of the bill.

There is some concern about the low, 25% cut-off level. Reportedly, the highest percentage of refunds per year in any other state is under 10%. But checkoffs have been traditionally hard to explain and push in many parts of Indiana.

What happens to the bill, in terms of final language, rate, and plan of either monitoring or voting at a future time, will be hashed out in conference committee. That's the normal procedure for any bill passed by both houses of the Indiana General Assembly.