|By TIM ALEXANDER
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — A recent survey of more than 1,000 members of the Illinois Corn Growers Assoc. (ICGA) revealed a majority (65 percent) would support a revision to the Illinois Corn Marketing Act which would raise the checkoff rate producers contribute to 3/8 cents per bushel from the current rate of 1/4 cents per bushel.
The results of the survey prompted officials to ask the state’s agriculture department to set a date for a referendum.
The increase of 1/8 cents per bushel is equivalent to about 20 cents per acre, or the value of 100 seeds in a bag of seed corn.
ICGA president Steve Ruh, a corn producer from Sugar Grove, said the organization’s members voted in favor of an increase in the state’s corn checkoff rate because they believe it represents a productive investment in their futures.
“ICGA’s mission has always been to do what is in the best interest of Illinois corn producers,” said Ruh, at a public hearing conducted in February at the Illinois Department of Agriculture building in Springfield.
“Our board and the majority of our membership feel the Illinois Corn Marketing Board and the checkoff program they administer is making a positive difference in the success of their farm business.”
Ruh said those members voting against the increase, which would represent the first hike in checkoff rates since 1983, thought that the current rate was enough or needed more information before approving it.
“We think support will grow as they learn how new funds will be spent,” he said. “Illinois farmers should have an opportunity to vote on updating this program.”
Ruh cited the long-term growth of ethanol production and consumer acceptance of ethanol as a viable, renewable fuel source as examples of both a “checkoff success story” but also a major challenge facing the industry.
“In the last 25 years ethanol has grown from a start-up industry to a thriving market for 2.2 billion bushels of corn. We will need to diversify the ethanol market beyond 10 percent ethanol fuel to E85 if consumer use is to expand,” Ruh said.
“We will also need to improve and market the growing volume of livestock feed product - distillers dried grains and solubles or DDGS - being created as a co-product of ethanol production. This is a symptom of our success; however, the livestock industry is one of our best customers so we must address this (issue) soon.”
The ICGA, in a news release, said if the new checkoff rate is approved DDGS and E85 market development will be expanded significantly to:
•Identify and implement ways to allow DDGS to be better utilized by the livestock industry.
•Increase E85 programming to allow continued ethanol growth. Ethanol could saturate the current 10 percent blended fuel market within five years.
•Increase DDGS exports to other state and foreign destinations. This is needed to maintain and grow a viable ethanol industry in Illinois, according to the ICGA.
“This program is administered by my fellow farmers right here in Illinois and everyone has the right to a full refund,” Ruh said.
“I think the success of the programs as well as their ability to voice their opinion on the program every time they sell corn is the reason for the long-term support of the program.”
IDOA Director Chuck Hartke said a referendum proposing to increase the current voluntary corn checkoff rate has been scheduled March 29.