By Jared Strong
Iowa farmers should request refunds of the penny-per-bushel fee they pay for their sold corn to protest the Iowa Corn Growers Association’s support of carbon dioxide pipelines, according to some pipeline opponents.
That “corn checkoff” fee generates more than $20 million each year for the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, which has a contract with the association for its work to strengthen markets for corn and promote the industry to the public. Most of the revenue from the fee goes to the association.
The board was established by state law, and collection of the fee is automatic. But farmers can request a refund.
In the board’s fiscal year 2022, which ended in August that year, fee collections totaled nearly $25 million, according to the board’s most-recent state audit. Farmers requested about $2.3 million in refunds, which was roughly similar to previous years.
“We want to let them know that we don’t like what they’re promoting,” said Kathy Stockdale, who anticipates a checkoff refund of about $700 for the corn produced by her Hardin County farm.
That land lies in the path of Summit Carbon Solutions’ proposed pipeline and was in the path of another proposal by Navigator CO2, which has abandoned its project.
Stockdale was incensed by the associations’ support of the carbon dioxide pipelines and wants other farmers to request refunds to show their disdain for that support.
“If enough people would do it, it would make an impact,” she said.
A spokesperson for the Iowa Corn Growers Association did not respond to a request to comment for this article.
The corn checkoff is often billed as a cheap investment for farmers to help increase their profits. Earlier this year, a plan by some state lawmakers to route some of that money into the state’s Grain Indemnity Fund drew fierce resistance and ultimately failed.
The association announced its support for the pipeline projects last year because of their potential to boost the long-term viability of ethanol plants in Iowa. More than half of the state’s corn is used to produce ethanol.
Summit wants to build a pipeline system in five states to transport captured carbon dioxide from ethanol plants to North Dakota for underground sequestration. It plans to own and operate the capture equipment, which would make it eligible for generous federal tax credits for sequestering carbon. The ethanol plants would also be eligible for tax credits for producing low-carbon fuels and would be able to sell the ethanol in new markets.
Summit has said its project will buttress corn prices and benefit farmers. It has obtained land easements for about three-quarters of its route in Iowa and seeks eminent domain for the rest.
Opponents of the proposal say eminent domain is inappropriate for the project because it doesn’t serve a public benefit, but rather enriches the company’s wealthy investors. Landowners who are subject to the company’s eminent domain requests worry about damage to their farmland and underground tiling and about the safety threat a pipeline breach poses to people and animals.
Kim Junker, whose farm in Butler County was in the path of Navigator’s proposal, said she is requesting a checkoff refund and: “I highly recommend other farmers do it too. It sends a clear message.”
She has been a vocal opponent of the pipeline projects and worries that Summit might expand its system into her area of the state to link with ethanol plants that were part of Navigator’s proposal.
“We’ve got to be vigilant,” Junker said. “We’ve got to keep fighting and doing what we’ve been doing to make sure we stop Summit, too.”
Summit’s evidentiary hearing with the Iowa Utilities Board concluded last week. The board is expected to make a decision about its hazardous liquid pipeline permit next year.