Row Crop CEOs Address Key Policy Issues Affecting Farmers

GMO labeling. Crop insurance. Seed technology. Environmental regulation.

For the grain associations that represent the major commodity groups, there are plenty of policy issues to watch and engage with this year, based on their plans for this week’s Commodity Classic in New Orleans.

“First, second and third goal is crop insurance, crop insurance. It’s all about protecting crop insurance,” said National Association of Wheat Growers CEO Jim Palmer.

President Obama is proposing an $18 billion dollar cut within 10 years to the federal crop insurance program. Much of that could impact premiums. Now farm groups are pushing back.

“There’s a lot of drive in Washington, D.C., to cut numbers for rural America. That’s cutting a lifeline that many of our farmers need right now, “said the National Corn Growers Association CEO Chris Novak.

“Farmers are already paying $4 billion dollars a year in premiums for crop insurance. With today’s low prices and with our net farm income down, our message to Congress and the administration is now is not the time to cut that,” said American Soybean Association CEO Stephen Censky.

Crop insurance nearly took a hit last fall in a bipartisan budget deal that trimmed $3 billion from the program. However, the money was eventually restored in December through the transportation bill.

“We will have to be unified just as we were last fall and work together to make sure those cuts do not stick and that we protect what our farmers from the sorghum industry and most farmers around the country say is the most important part of the safety-net,” said National Sorghum Producers CEO Tim Lust.

When it comes to sorghum, a big focus is regulatory action and how it may impact seed technology. “It’s probably our top issue for the industry. We are really interested to walk through the process. We understand the need to look at changing the way they do that. We have concerns on how they will do that and if it will slow down innovation in sorghum and increased the costs to the grower,” said Lust.

The Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule is a major concern for all four commodity groups, which would like to see the regulation repealed.

But the controversial rule remains entangled in legal proceedings.

The U.S. Supreme Court also announced this week it won’t hear an appeal from farm groups challenging the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay watershed mandates.

But the grain associations’ leaders say farmers should not give up hope.

“We’re going to have a new Congress and administration. Don’t know which way it’s going to turn out. Either way, I think there are opportunities for perhaps the rule to be pulled back and to be re-written.,” said Censky.

“Administrations will change. Courts will change. Opportunities will change. This is one from a producer side that it’s a bad policy. It’s not good for a farmer from any commodity,” said Lust.

They say farmers need to keep engaging by making their voices heard.

“It’s our job as a grower community to make sure our benefits are clearly communicated and articulated to regulators working on these products and to make sure that we are science-based,” said Lust.

“National issues are state and local issues first,” Palmer added. “So, if we can address them at the grassroots or state level, we’re just that much more prepared. Congress is the point of last resort. We need to just be active earlier at the grassroots level.”

Source: Betsy Jibben, Ag Day TV

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