November 5, 2009

Corn checkoff in the news

Repurposing checkoff funds as a way to help the state of Nebraska close its budget has been in the news across Nebraska this week -- and I’ve compiled a list of a few of those articles below.

In general, ag groups point out that checkoff funds are paid by farmers for the specific purpose of research, market development, promotion and education for their industry.

The corn checkoff, for example, helps develop markets for corn and provides important support for the ethanol and livestock industries (key markets for corn and corn coproducts).

Alan Tieman, a farmer from Seward, is current chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board (the checkoff corn organization in the state). He is featured in several pieces -- and points out how farmers (like all of us) pay sales taxes, income taxes and property taxes.

The checkoff, though, is an investment created, funded and managed by farmers for farmers. (For more on what the checkoff is, check out this post.)

In a report by Brownfield’s Ken Anderson, NE governor, ag groups at odds over checkoff funds, Tiemann is quoted:

We all believe that our checkoff dollars are farmer-invested funds -- they’re not general tax dollars. These are funds that we use for market development, research, promotion -- defending Nebraska agriculture.

The Brownfield piece includes audio interviews with Tiemann, Nebraska Farm Bureau’s Jay Rempe and Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman.

The Grand Island Independent article, Dubas moves to keep ag checkoff funds out of state budget talks, includes information on state Senator Annette Dubas’s effort to keep the Legislature from using checkoff funds to cover the state's budget shortage.

In the article by Mark Coddington, Dubas acknowledged that the state is in dire financial straits and said that "everything has to be out there." Still, she said, checkoff funds are a fundamentally different kind of funds than the rest of the state's coffers.

The Lincoln Journal Star also had a front page article: Commodity board advocates up in arms.

The article includes a good quote from Farm Bureau President Keith Olsen:

We recognize there is a financial crisis. We have no question about that. But this issue is a matter of principle. And, in our opinion, it's wrong to take farmers' money that was checked off for a certain use and to try to put that into a completely different use.

Tiemann was also quoted: "If the governor wants to take checkoff money and put it into the general fund, then they become tax funds. It becomes a new tax on farmers.

KOLN/KGIN, like several TV stations across the state, included information its newscast last night in the piece Governor's Proposed Budget Calls For A Shared Sacrifice From State Agencies. It talks about the situation and notes that taking checkoff funds would cause a ripple effect, as cooperating agencies like the U.S. Meat Export Federation, the U.S. Grain Council and the University of Nebraska depend on corn checkoff funds.

USMEF promotes beef and pork around the world, which supports Nebraska livestock producers. The Grains Council promotes U.S. corn and corn coproducts in the global marketplace and the University of Nebraska does a lot of corn and livestock-related research.

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