On Feb. 21, the Illinois Department of Agriculture will hold a hearing on a potential referendum to raise the corn checkoff amount by ¼ cent per bushel.
After considering testimony at the Feb. 21 hearing, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board must pass a super-majority vote to seek a referendum to increase the checkoff contribution. IDOA must then hold the referendum vote within 90 days.
If passed, the voluntary checkoff rate will increase from 3/8 cent per bushel to 5/8 cent per bushel. According to ICMB chairman and Metamora farmer Bill Christ, the additional ¼ cent will help shore up a $3.3 million shortfall from last year's budget.
Essentially, Christ says current contributions simply cannot pay for the entire member-generated agenda. That agenda includes things like research for our country's aging infrastructure (primarily locks and dams), presenting regulatory agencies with a balanced perspective, improving the public perception of farming and pushing past the ethanol blend wall.
"Things like the debate on water quality, this is not going to go away with a change in administration," Christ notes. "We need funding in place to provide solid science on this topic."
Increasing the checkoff contribution by ¼ cent will create an additional $4.5 million, based on the 2011 harvest. While it's a bit more than the $3.3 million shortfall, Christ says the point is to provide a bit of room for growth in the future.
The checkoff contribution was increased five years ago by ¼ cent to the current rate of 3/8 cent per bushel. Christ says the goal was to fund research involving ethanol coproducts. The demand for DDGs was significantly increased, but other funding areas grew. Christ says funding for the public's perception of farming is one such area.
"It used to be everyone was only one generation away from the farm," Christ adds. "Educating the public on the importance of family farms is now a necessary priority."
IDOA will hold a public hearing at 10 a.m. in Room 66 of the Illinois Department of Agriculture's administration building on the fairgrounds in Springfield. Following the public hearing, ICMB will review all comments presented to determine if there is enough support to proceed. If there is, IDOA hold a referendum within 90 days.Those unable to attend the hearing may submit written comments by Feb. 17, 2012. Comments should be addressed to the Director of Agriculture, P.O. Box 19281, Springfield, Ill., 62794-9281.