Jeff Scates, president of the Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA), spoke in Springfield yesterday 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 testified. “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 clearly emphasized 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 said in his testimony.
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 percent said they would vote in favor of a checkoff rate increase to 5/8 cent per bushel.
The annual survey results provided a framework of issues that ICGA members think are those that most impact their profitability and ability to farm. In his testimony, Scates said those issues in order of importance are: infrastructure improvements, engaging in the process to dispute regulatory burdens, strengthening consumer trust in crop and livestock farmers and their methodologies, and finally supporting further market access for ethanol.
“In our survey, some farmers replied they would not vote in favor of the referendum, primarily because they thought the checkoff rate was already adequate, because they didn’t have enough information, or because they thought a smaller increase was more acceptable,” Scates explained. “In my testimony, I relayed this information and challenged the Marketing Board to be sure that they continue to be good stewards of checkoff funds and listen to the needs of Illinois corn farmers.”