Commentary by Ken McCauley, KCGA President
Trade, Farm Bill, ethanol, regulatory relief and infrastructure were the hot topics at this summer’s Corn Congress in Washington DC. I was part of a group of seven Kansas Corn leaders who participated in Corn Congress, which is the delegate session of the National Corn Growers Association. But there’s a lot more that happens on this week. NCGA action teams meet on Monday and Tuesday of Corn Congress week. These teams do the detail work on the issues and activities of the corn growers. The rest of the week is filled with a couple of delegate sessions for Corn Congress, where we set the direction for NCGA, and hill visits, where we talk to our senators and representatives and their staff. The action team meetings, delegate sessions and hill visits are packed into four very full days.
Corn Congress gives us an opportunity to discuss the issues and how NCGA should proceed. The 2018 Farm Bill was discussed and a lot of ideas were voiced. I came away knowing we, as corn farmers need to be looking at what we want the next farm bill to look like.
I’d like each of you to ask yourself: how are the current farm bill programs working for me? What do I think the future will look like and what kind of programs will work for me in the future? I think a lot of us who signed up for ARC are now thinking the PLC program would have been a better deal. Is a better PLC program with a higher target price the way to go? Can we fix the ARC program and the problems we’ve been facing with discrepancies on county-level data (and payments)? I’d like to add that Kansas and other states have been working closely with NCGA to find a solution to the ARC county issue. On crop insurance, we came away from our discussions with the feeling that there is good support to keep a strong crop insurance program like it is today, but we also know there will be efforts to cut its funding. There is also talk of increasing acres in the CRP program, and we need to think about the positive and negative effects that could have on farmers. What do you think? KCGA’s Farm Bill Survey is still available on our website and we are still seeking input from farmers
At Corn Congress, Mexican Ambassador Geronimo Gutierrez spoke to us at Corn Congress about trade between the US and Mexico. We see Mexico as a valuable trading partner and the #1 export buyer of US corn. Ambassador Gutierrez said they feel the same way about trade with the U.S. but they have to keep their options open and are looking into building relationships with other countries. Corn growers have been telling the administration to “do no harm” to our ag trade in NAFTA talks. Ambassador Gutierrez said the same thing—do no harm to trade between our countries.
I thought our hill visits went great. We visited the offices of our four representatives and two senators and it is gratifying to have our entire delegation on-board with our agriculture issues. We are lucky to have a strong Kansas congressional delegation that will work for us. I don’t have room here, but you can read the issues brief we used here.
We also visited some offices of non-corn-state Senators from Montana, Maine and Pennsylvania. My group visited the Montana and Maine offices and was surprised and encouraged at how ag-friendly they were. They listened to our discussion of issues ranging from farm bill, ethanol and trade. We found a lot in common especially talking about trade and farm bill. Sometimes we forget a state like Maine has agriculture—think blueberries and potatoes! And Canada is their top trading partner—so they share our strong interest to preserve ag trade in NAFTA and build up the Foreign Market Development program and Market Access Program (FMD and MAP).
In August, your senators and representatives will be in the state, and if they come to your area, I challenge you to attend a town hall meeting and speak up for agriculture, ask an ag question and thank them for their work for agriculture. Health care is the main topic they are hearing about. That’s an important issue, but so is agriculture and they really appreciate the opportunity to talk about agriculture.