Opposition Still Exists to Corn Checkoff

Legislation awaits action in House.

Published on: Mar 20, 2007

Not everyone is pleased that dramatic changes to Indiana's corn checkoff program could be in the offing. Proponents argue that the current voluntary checkoff, raising about $40,000 per year, is so woefully inadequate and difficult to participate in, that legislation updating and upgrading the checkoff is like setting up a brand new program.

Based on legislation that passed out of the Senate, Indiana's voluntary checkoff for corn would become similar to programs in other major corn states that raise sizable sums of money for corn promotion and research for new uses each year. Illinois Corn Producers, raising some $4 million annually, have been credited as one of the key players in bringing ethanol to auto racing. They were directly involved in the trial of the first ethanol car two years ago. This year, the Indy Racing League, sponsor of the Indianapolis 500 and a series of Indy-car races across the country, intends to run on ethanol fuel. Last year's cars ran on 10% ethanol.

Matt Gibson, president of the Indiana Corn Growers Association, Morocco, says that as the legislation stands now, one-half cent per bushel would be automatically deducted at point of sale. Farmers would have 180 days to claim a full or partial refund in writing. ICGA estimates that the program could raise $3 million for corn promotion and research in Indiana.

"It's about time that we do our part here, instead of relying on farmers in neighboring states to do the promotion for us," says Don Villwock, Edwardsport, a corn farmer and president of Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc.

Indiana Farm Bureau has run commercial radio spots, featuring IFB communications director and former farm broadcaster Lew Middleton, urging farmers to contact their legislators and push for passage of this bill in the House. One year ago the House overwhelmingly passed a similar bill, but it was never heard in committee in the Senate. This year the House waited to see if the Senate would act before taking up the bill. Now that it has passed the Senate by a wide margin, it is in process within the House.

One reason IFB, ICGA and others are still urging farmers to contact legislators is that not everyone talking about the bill to legislators does so in positive terms. Based upon calls and emails received by Indiana Prairie Farmer, there is still vocal opposition to the bill. What volume of opposition there might be is unclear. At this time, we're unaware of any organized opposition, although individuals have indicated they intend to testify against the bill in house hearings if given the opportunity.

Judge the validity of the arguments for yourself. Here are points that readers and callers have made about the bill:

  • It's just not necessary now that corn prices are higher anyway.
  • Other states have spent some $120 million on checkoff programs, and until ethanol came along, they had nothing to show for it. Prices hadn't gone up.
  • Ethanol is off and running and doesn't need any more promotion
  • Why can't I just tell my elevator man that I don't want to participate, instead of having to ask for a refund later in writing?
  • They're (corn groups) hoping most people won't go to the trouble of requesting a refund.
  • They say that we can get refunds, but we could when the soybean program started. Now we can't.
  • Just watch- someday you wont be able to get refunds with this program either.
  • Why should a program be started without giving farmers a chance to vote on it? That's not fair.
  • The referendum ought to be now, not in four or five years.
  • If there were no checkoffs and those extra cents went into farmers paychecks across the country, we'd all be better off.
  • Yes, big companies advertise, but they've got a specific product to sell. We're just selling corn to the elevator. Why do we need to promote that?

You decide if you agree or disagree with these comments made by those not thrilled about the prospects of passage of a bill updating Indiana's corn checkoff. Obviously, not everyone is yet convinced it's the right thing to do.

If you want to add your comments pro or con, contact us at: tbechman@farmprogress.com.