If you are a regular follower of Corn Corps, you might remember this post which details the difference between a membership organization and a checkoff association, between the Illinois Corn Growers Association and the Illinois Corn Marketing Board. If you don’t remember this post or haven’t read it, go read it now.
You might also need a better understanding of “nutrient runoff” if you aren’t from an agricultural background or profession. Nutrient runoff describes the fertilizers we put on our fields that are left unused by the plants being collected in the water supply and leaving the field into our streams and rivers. We address nitrogen and phosphorus as the key nutrients that get carried into streams and rivers. Even your own yard, if you fertilize it, can contribute to nutrient runoff into our water supply.
Using the model of a checkoff program, Illinois has now formed the Nutrient Research and Education Council or NREC. NREC replaces an older group, FREC (Fertilizer Research and Education Council), with some significant changes. FREC was managed entirely by the State of Illinois and its funding, intended for nutrient research and education, has been swept by an Illinois government that can’t pay its bills. The new NREC is a public private partnership, much like the checkoff fund, where the monies collected are held outside of the state coffers so that they can actually be used for nutrient research and education.
Nutrient research and education IS needed. The USEPA considers Illinois agriculture a major contributor of nutrients resulting in Gulf Hypoxia as well as unacceptable levels of nitrogen and phosphate in some Illinois streams, rivers and lakes. Research and education to relieve or disprove these opinions is critical to avoid regulations that would harm farmer profitability, but more importantly, jeopardize world food supplies.
The new NREC is a $1 per ton assessment on all fertilizer sold. The Illinois Department of Agriculture will receive 25 cents of the assessment for fertilizer quality, safety, and inspections while the remaining 75 cents will go into research and education to deal with the nitrogen and phosphorus runoff issues while increasing yields.
The bottom line is, Illinois farmers and fertilizer dealers want to do the right thing for the environment. They’ve tried to do the right thing in the past, but our state budget didn’t allow for our programming to work most efficiently. Now, we have taken matters into our own hands, passed legislation to create NREC, and continue to address the environmental issues that may be caused by Illinois agriculture.
It’s a big issue for Illinois Corn, one that we consider very important, and we look forward to big results.