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Colorado Checkoff Group Seeks Assessment Hike

Friday, February 7, 2014
filed under: Marketing/Risk Management

The Colorado Sunflower Administrative Committee (CSAC) is launching an effort to increase research-funding efforts for sunflower producers.

“We’ve been in existence since March of 2001 in Colorado. In 2001 we went to Colorado sunflower producers and asked if they wanted a sunflower checkoff. Producers voted for it, and we’ve had it set at 3.0 cents/cwt ever since,” explains Ron Meyer, executive director of the Colorado Sunflower Administrative Committee. “Average yields in Colorado on dryland are 1,500 lbs; that’s 45 cents an acre. Last year, after severe drought conditions, we operated on only $9,000 from the checkoff.” That meant decreasing funding for Colorado State University sunflower research projects.

CSAC is proposing the checkoff be raised from 3.0 cents/cwt to 6.0 cents. “We’re hoping to get the ballot in the hands of Colorado sunflower producers in March or April. If approved, we are targeting the increase in checkoff dollars to go specifically for sunflower research such as CSU’s sunflower testing project,” says Meyer.

Those behind the increase say there are a number of reasons the increase is needed.

“Typically, over the past 10 years, we’ve collected $15,000 a year. In 2012, we collected only $9,000,” explains Meyer. “There are a couple of reasons for that: one, Colorado has had two seasons of drought, and fewer people have planted sunflower, so our acreage has dropped. And we are not a big organization, which limits what we can do with our funding.”

Where do Colorado checkoff dollars go? Here’s the breakdown:

• One-third of CSAC’s budget is invested with the National Sunflower Association (NSA). “There are some significant benefits to giving checkoff dollars to the NSA,” says Meyer. “The NSA funds other sunflower research [including] a lot of projects that benefit producers in Colorado. These projects aren’t always done in Colorado, but they still benefit us. For example, some research investigates production strategies in western Kansas that directly benefits producers in eastern Colorado, too.

“In addition, NSA has heavily funded research at specific Colorado locations, benefiting our sunflower producers directly.” The list of NSA-funded research projects that have benefited Colorado producers includes studies on planting dates, insect control strategies, weed control labels, hybrid research and new advanced herbicides, just to name a few. “Those studies wouldn’t happen without the NSA’s continued activities. They have provided huge benefits to growers in our region; but this takes funding to continue.”

• One-third goes toward local research, specifically sunflower research by Colorado State University’s Soil and Crop Sciences Department. “While we do benefit from the NSA’s research, there are specific production strategies we can investigate here in Colorado as well,” Meyer observes. “We have an excellent land grant university, and CSAC provides funding to keep those research projects active at Colorado State University. For every dollar assessed in sunflower checkoff dollars, we get as much as $3.00 in return. That investment return leads to better production practices and increased revenue for growers. We all win.”

• The remaining one-third comprises CSAC’s operating budget. “This money pays for promotional activities, our auditor and our part-time accountant, and totaled approximately $4,900 last year.

“All of the members of CSAC’s Board of Directors are volunteers. Most money set aside for the operating budget will be spent on research and promotion, ” says Meyer.

CSAC proposed a similar checkoff increase in 2010, but that initiative failed by just 11 votes. This time, Meyer says the group will do more to educate producers about how the money will be spent and help them understand why the increase is necessary. “We are optimistic. It was defeated by just 11 votes last time, and we think if we would have done a little more marketing it probably would have passed,” he says.

If the increase does not pass, the Colorado checkoff will stay at 3.0 cents/cwt. “That limits the amount of research we can fund, which slows production advances on the farm,” says Meyer.

Colorado producers desiring more information on the proposed sunflower checkoff increase can contact Ron Meyer at . — Jody Kerzman

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