Cotton, corn, and soybean checkoff programs not only help to support research and promotion efforts at the national and international levels, they also return money to the states to fund projects specific to their producers’ needs.

Representatives of three producer-supported organizations in Mississippi outlined at the annual conference of the Mississippi Agricultural Consultants Association how checkoff funds are used in their state.

Cotton checkoff program

In the 2009-10 crop year, Mississippi cotton producers contributed $1,005,000 to support the research and promotion efforts of Cotton Incorporated.

A large portion of that money came back to the state to support research programs of vital interest to Mississippi producers, says Bernie Jordan, Yazoo City, vice chairman of the Cotton Incorporated State Support Committee.

“This year, $243,000 in new funds, plus unspent and carryover funds of $153,655, was available to fund projects by Mississippi research personnel,” he said at the annual conference of the Mississippi Agricultural Consultants Association.

Seven and a half percent of the state’s assessment, calculated on a five-year moving average, is designated for the support of state programs, Jordan notes.

“The Mississippi board of directors allocated $296,665 to nine research projects and two promotional projects.”

Kater Hake and Bob Nichols with Cotton Incorporated’s Agricultural Research Division work with the Delta Research and Extension Center at Stoneville, Miss., to determine which projects they believe have merit to improve cotton production in Mississippi and the Mid-South.

Projects currently receiving funding in the 2010-11 period include cotton demonstrations; reniform/root-knot nematode resistance genes; monitoring of heliothine insects for resistance to insecticides; cotton yield response to irrigation; effects of broiler byproducts on cotton fields; managing Mississippi cotton pests; management of volunteer crops in cotton; cotton yield response to residual N and K; research to counter development of cotton weed resistance; and support for the Delta Council’s educational programs and the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation’s agricultural image campaign.

For 2011, Jordan notes, Cotton Incorporated’s budget, funded by producer and importer assessments, is $68 million.

“A Texas A&M study has shown that for every dollar invested in the research and promotion program, there was a $6 return on investment,” he says. “Today, cotton can be found on store shelves everywhere in most product categories, and cotton has more than a 60 percent share of the marketplace.”

Mississippi has four directors on the Cotton Incorporated board — Tom Robertson, Holly Ridge, who is chairman of the State Support Committee; Warren W. Sullivan, Tunica, chairman of the Consumer Marketing Committee; Pat Patterson, Nitta Yuma, a member of the Fiber Research Committee; and Jordan, who is also a member of the Global Strategy and Implementation Committee and the Governance Committee.

Alternate directors are Davis Owen, Robinsonville; Coley Bailey, Jr., Coffeeville; Kendall Garraway, Bolton; and Buddy Allen, Tunica.

Cotton Board directors named by the Secretary of Agriculture are Tom Gary, Greenwood, and Mike Sturdivant, Jr., Glendora.

Soybean Promotion Board

Four organizations represented are represented on the Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board: The Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, the Delta Council, the Mississippi Feed Grains Association, and the Mississippi Soybean Association, each with three farmer representatives.

When a farmer sells his soybeans, at the point of first purchase one-half of 1 percent of the value of the beans is collected by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture. “For $10 soybeans, this would amount to 5 cents per bushel,” says Keith Morton, Falkner producer, who is chairman of the board. Half of the money goes to the national United Soybean Board for its research and promotion programs, and the remainder is used for programs in Mississippi.

“The duty of the board is to invest soybean farmers’ money in ways that will give them the most benefit.”

Mississippi has two representatives on the United Soybean Board — Marc Curtis of Leland, who is USB chairman, and Jimmy Sneed of Hernando, USB communications vice chairman.

“The Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board wants to identify needs, find solutions to those needs, verify results, and get results in farmers’ hands as quickly as possible for the maximum benefit,” Morton says.

Research is a priority in utilizing the funds, he notes, and the organization has recently contracted with Larry Heatherly, former USDA soybean researcher, to serve as coordinator of the board’s research efforts.

Input is sought from farmers, researchers, consultants, industry representatives and others to determine the most important issues, Morton notes. Proposals that are developed are reviewed, discussed, and voted on by the entire MSPB.

“We’re blessed to have Mississippi State University’s extensive Extension, research, and education infrastructure, the USDA-ARS scientists, and the agricultural consultants organization as valuable resources for our state’s soybean growers,” Morton says.

Among the “most important” projects funded by the MSPB, he says, are control of glyphosate-resistant weeds, the Mississippi State University soybean variety trials, sponsorship of the Farm Bureau Federation’s “Farm Families of Mississippi” image campaign, and support of a collaborative regional research effort that includes Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas.

Other projects include fungicide and fertility practices that may help protect soybean seed quality, tests for quality of soybeans stored in grain storage bags, studies of soybean inoculants, entomology, and irrigation practices.

“A new project for us is the website mssoy.org, which will be a valuable tool in getting relevant information to farmers in a more timely fashion. We’ll also be using Twitter for alerts and updates of important news and events.”

Corn Promotion Board

Mississippi’s Corn Promotion Board was established and began collecting funds in 2006, assessing 1 cent per bushel at the point of sale.

“We’re a relatively new checkoff program,” says Rob Coker, Yazoo City, chairman of the organization, “but the funds that come to the state enable us to finance meaningful research and promotion programs.”

In 2010, he notes, the state had 750,000 acres of corn, but with weather problems, only 670,000 acres were harvested, with an average yield of 136 bushels — down from 145 bushels the previous year.

“With checkoff money, we were able to fund 22 different research programs last year, totaling more than $700,000,” he said.

One of the key research programs centers on verification trials, Coker notes. “We want to take information gained through research and see how they work in real world situations.”

Research funded by checkoff money includes four fertility projects, four entomology projects, three weed control projects, irrigation and storage projects, and seven projects related to various aspects of aflatoxin — which he says represents “the No. 1 danger to our state’s corn crop.”

The organization is also working with the Southern Corn Coalition to seek federal matching funds for a coordinated effort to find solutions for aflatoxin and has supported efforts get a Centers of Excellence facility for aflatoxin research in Mississippi.

Other support by the promotion board, Coker says, includes corn hybrid trials, the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation’s image of agriculture campaign, and the Delta Council.