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Indiana Farm Bureau OKs support for corn checkoff
By NANCY VORIS
Indiana Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Nearly 300 attendees of the Indiana Farm Bureau delegate session on Aug. 26 adopted policy recommendations on property taxes, the 2007 farm bill and other agricultural issues.

The recommendations will be used to guide IFB in state policy and will be sent to the American Farm Bureau Federation for consideration during the national policy debate this winter.

A property tax task force appointed last year spent months considering IFB’s property tax policy, resulting in major changes of the policy language.

Delegates supported a study based on the premise of reallocating state property tax replacement credit to eliminate entire property tax levies. The policy added, “Farm Bureau opposes any property tax relief mechanism that favors another class of taxpayers at the expense of agriculture.”

But the issue drawing the most controversy was the support of a statewide corn checkoff. Farm Bureau policy has traditionally favored industry-controlled commodity checkoffs, and after a rousing discussion delegates voted to support a corn checkoff.

Some said input costs were too high and maybe this was not the time to impose a checkoff. But with a voluntary corn checkoff in place, one producer said a few are paying the marketing costs of all producers.

Delegates heard pros and cons of other commodity checkoffs during the discussion. Jeff Gormond of Vigo County said soybean inputs have been so high that they haven’t seen the value of the soybean checkoff.

But Lynn Teel, a member of the Indiana Soybean Board, which manages the checkoff, pointed to production in Brazil and credited an expanded market in the United States for keeping prices up.

“What would the price be now without new uses?” Teel asked. “Beans could be below $3 if not for the Soybean Board and news uses.”

Four of every 10 rows of soybeans go to the international market and the checkoff has been a strong instigator for that, said Mike Beard of Clinton County.

“We owe it to the industry to promote corn as a fuel,” he said. “I’m behind it as a pork producer. We know DDGs (an ethanol byproduct) are coming, and I hope the corn checkoff will help finance research that will help feed more hogs.”

The Indiana House of Representatives passed a bill in 2006 to provide for the checkoff to be automatically collected when corn is sold, but the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee refused to hear the bill.

The commodity program would have remained voluntary in the proposed bill, with farmers having 180 days to file for a refund of any checkoff dollars contributed.

But it changed the rate of the current checkoff from one-half cent per bushel to one-half of 1 percent of the value per bushel, providing approximately $6 million in checkoff funds annually.

Supporters are expected to introduce a similar bill in 2007.

IFB delegates voted to support “a state corn checkoff with a refund provision and a five-year program review. Funds from the checkoff would be used for research, product development, promotion and education.

“Indiana is the only major corn producing state in the nation where farmers are not investing in the development of our industry,” Indiana Corn Growers Assoc. President Matt Gibson stated during legislative talks in January.

“As we look at where the growth has been in the ethanol industry, Indiana farmers have lost out on significant opportunities because we have not been willing to invest in building new markets here at home.”

This farm news was published in the Sept. 13, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

9/13/2006