Backers of the Indiana Corn Checkoff are fairly confident that a bill very similar to the one passed by the Indiana House one year ago will get a hearing before the full Indiana Senate this time around. What happens after that may depend upon how well checkoff supporters contact and educate state senators about the checkoff, and why it's needed.
There are Indiana state senators firmly for the checkoff, and some firmly opposed to it. Then there are many who simply don't even know what the checkoff and the corn checkoff bill is about.
"Those are the ones that need to be educated," says Bev Gard, Republican, Greenfield. Gard, a state senator, is introducing the bill into the Indiana Senate this year, and is expected to shepherd it through the economic development committee.
"I am happy to sponsor the bill because I believe it is time that this issue had a fair hearing in the Senate," Gard says. "You deserve the opportunity to get a fair hearing for this idea.
"You have lots of work to do, however. There are many senators in the Statehouse who don't even understand what the bill is about. Each and every one needs to be educated. It's best if it's a one-on-one contact from a corn grower in their voting district. That's when they pay attention."
Last year's bill initiated in the Indiana House, and passed by an overwhelming margin with support from both sides of the aisle. Experts guess that most House members are still supportive. However, Phil Pflum, D.-Wayne County, chairman of the House ag committee, indicated that the House version of the bill would not move until the Senate took action.
That's standard procedure in politics, outside observers say. Since the House has already demonstrated overwhelming support for a very similar bill, there is no advantage for House members to take up the issue again, unless there is reasonable chance that it could be passed. This issue clearly rests with the Indiana Senate. The '06 legislation died when Senator Johnny Nugent, R, Lawrenceburg, chairman of the Ag Committee in the senate, refused to hear the bill in committee.
Matt Gibson, president of the Indiana Corn Growers Association, says there are only two major differences between this year's bill and last year's at this point. Final tweaking could still occur, and it's possible amendments could be added if the legislation indeed begins to make its way through legislative channels.
"Last year 30% of the money was going to Economic Development for three years off the top to support ethanol development," he explains. "That 30% to economic development is still in there, but this bill says that the Indiana Corn Marketing Council will still have a say in how that money is used."
Second, Gibson says the new version will likely include a provision for review of the checkoff in the future. That language was still being developed last week.
"We recognize that there should be some type of accountability," says Chris Novak, executive director of the Indiana Corn Growers Association. "The thought now is that there will be a review committee that will study the results of the checkoff in five years. There may be procedures put in place as a result of that review that could lead to a referendum in certain circumstances."
The make-up of the review committee and other details of this clause are still under discussion, Novak notes. If the bill gets legs in the Senate, this language will likely be included in more detail.
Stay tuned for further updates.