Jeff Scates, president of the Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA), spoke in Springfield last week at the hearing held by the Illinois Department of Agriculture regarding the proposed referendum to increase the corn checkoff rate.
In his testimony, Scates referenced specific farmer comments on the issue and also explained the expectation of the ICGA as a whole.
"Illinois Corn Growers Association supports increasing the checkoff to 5/8 cent per bushel," Scates notes. "I've come to this position after carefully considering the input ICGA requested from our more than four thousand members. To put it simply, a strong majority of ICGA members believe that their corn checkoff dollars are being invested wisely and serve an important role in maintaining strong market demand for Illinois' number one crop."
Scates emphasizes that ICGA's support of increasing the checkoff does not come without an expectation of appropriate action.
"Requesting farmers to approve an increase in their checkoff is an understandable need. However understandable it is, I want to be sure that the Corn Marketing Board understands what we expect as an association of corn farmers," Scates adds.
Scates' comments at the hearing resulted from survey results of ICGA's annual membership survey, coupled with the results of a survey specific to the request for a checkoff referendum. In the survey specific to increasing the checkoff, 70% said they would vote in favor of a checkoff rate increase to 5/8 cent per bushel.
Late last week, the Illinois Department of Agriculture set March 28 as the date for the referendum.
The referendum was scheduled at the request of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, which met following a Feb. 21 public hearing on the proposal and decided to put the issue to a vote. Whenever such a ballot proposition is approved, the Illinois Corn Marketing Act stipulates that a referendum must be held within 90 days.
The referendum would increase the current 3/8 cent voluntary checkoff rate to 5/8 of a cent per bushel. Corn farmers would continue to have a right to a full refund.
Illinois producers "actively engaged" in the production and marketing of corn are eligible to cast a ballot. They can vote in person at their local Extension office or, perhaps, some county Farm Service Agency offices during normal business hours on the referendum date.
Eligible voters who reside outside the state or who cannot be physically present at the polls March 28 may cast an absentee ballot. Absentee ballots must be requested in writing from the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Requests should be sent to: Director, Illinois Department of Agriculture, Attn: Bureau of Marketing and Promotion, State Fairgrounds, P.O. Box 19281, Springfield, IL, 62794-9281.