Corn checkoff deserves careful review

Monday, June 4, 2007

We've heard there's an old saying among sports fans with a propensity to wager on the abilities of their favorite teams: "Put your money where your mouth is!"

But there's another old saying, that nothing is certain, but death and taxes.

Thus is the dilemma faced by corn growers, who are enjoying higher prices because of the ethanol industry, but don't enjoy paying taxes any more than the rest of us do.

Those involved in the industry would like to see more research into important issues related to ethanol and co-products such as distiller's grain, but some corn growers are reluctant to provide more money toward research over which they have no control.

Thus the Nebraska Corn Board is seeking input on a proposal that would increase the checkoff from a quarter of a cent to four-tenths of a cent per bushel, raising $3.5 million to $4 million over the next two years.

It's only the first step toward raising the checkoff fee the Legislature established in 1978.

But the explosive growth of the ethanol industry means there are huge issues and possibilities that can only be addressed with funding.

And as many of them affect the livestock industry as the corn industry itself.

According to an Associated Press story, they include how to increase the use of distiller's grain, where and how to recruit more dairy, beef and other livestock operations, how to best address environmental issues and, perhaps the most important issue for Southwest Nebraska, how to raise water efficiency in corn, ethanol and livestock production.

Cattle and ethanol producers are naturally concerned that the higher checkoff rate will hurt profits, and that certainly should be taken under consideration.

And, as in the case of any tax or fee, care must be taken to ensure that the funds are put to the best possible use.

But those who have a stake in the continued success and growth of the corn industry should carefully consider supporting the new checkoff rate.

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