An attempt to restructure the Nebraska Corn Board has stalled in the legislature.
Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha objects to the move away from total state control to a quasi-state agency and has tied up legislative debate on LB 354, keeping it from coming before the Unicameral for a vote.
The fate of the measure is uncertain.
Chambers wants the board to remain under state control.
“There are people who want to have this dedicated money, not under the control of the state, but they want the state to be the bag person, the collector, the hammer, the muscle,” Chambers tells colleagues during floor debate.
Chambers claims the change would put the state in the position of collecting money from the corn check-off and handing it over to a private operation to spend.
That simply isn’t so, according to supporters.
Sen. Ken Schilz of Ogallala, chairman of the Agriculture Committee, objects to Chambers’ characterization of the proposal. Schilz counters that while the measure would make the Corn Board a quasi-state agency, it still would remain under the legislature’s control.
Schilz insists the proposal would make the board more efficient and effective, while remaining accountable.
“It doesn’t necessarily give them any more flexibility in how they spend their money. They still have to spend it through the statutes,” Schilz says.
Corn Board Executive Director Don Hutchens says the proposal will give the Corn Board more independence, but would not cut ties to the state.
“We would not be an official state agency, but a quasi-state agency still answering to the legislature in general and to the Appropriations Committee and to the Agriculture Committee,” according to Hutchens.
The legislature established the Corn Board in 1978 as a state agency. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture collects funds from the corn check-off and the board determines how to spend the money to promote corn. Under LB354, future increases in the corn check-off rate would have to be approved by a majority of growers in a special referendum. Under the current system, increases require a series of approvals at the state level, including that of the governor.
Ken Anderson, Brownfield Ag News, contributed to this report.