NASHVILLE — Corn grown in Tennessee will now be promoted on a broader scale after state producers approved a 1-cent-per-bushel assessment to create a corn checkoff program aimed at improving and promoting their product, state Agriculture Commissioner Jai Templeton said.
Templeton authorized the referendum at the request of the Tennessee Corn Growers Association, the state's largest corn organization, according to a department news release.
"We always welcome input from our partners and industry leaders," Templeton said. "Tennessee farmers and landowners should have a say in determining the future of their business. We're proud that they were given the opportunity to do so."
Tennessee corn farmers or landowners who share in the production costs or the proceeds of the sale of corn were eligible to vote. Of the producers who cast ballots at local University of Tennessee Extension offices on Nov. 28 and 29, 63.9 percent supported the measure.
The department said 303 votes out of 474 votes cast were in favor of implementing the checkoff program.
Funds will be used for research, education, market development, marketing, advertising and other methods designed to promote increased production, consumption, use and sale of Tennessee corn products.
Assessments will begin March 1, 2019. Producers who do not want to participate may request a refund of the assessed amount within 90 days of sale.
Tennessee ranks 17th among states in terms of corn acreage. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service, Tennessee farmers harvested approximately 740,000 acres of corn in 2017, generating more than $418 million.
The Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation has supported a corn checkoff program, citing it in a 2017 "policy development" document that noted "Tennessee is the only state in the major corn growing area of the country without a corn check-off."
Farm Bureau officials estimated that had there been a 1-cent-per-bushel checkoff in 2016, $1.25 million could have been available for Tennessee-focused research and development, as well as in-state promotion of corn products.
With the exception of North Carolina, which has a three-quarter-of-a-cent-per-bushel checkoff and Kentucky, with its .0025 percent assessment on the gross marketed price of corn, other states surrounding Tennessee have the 1-cent assessment, according to the Farm Bureau.
Contact Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.