November 2021 Edition

Ears in Washington

Even in Divided Washington, Thankfulness Abounds

By Brooke Appleton, NCGA VP of Public Policy

November is truly a special month for farmers as we prepare for Thanksgiving and celebrate the end of harvest.

My family always had a lot to be thankful for this time of year as we celebrated the holiday on our Missouri farm. I always enjoyed our family tradition of cooking noodles in turkey broth and then pouring them over mashed potatoes. When my husband joined the family seven years ago, he had to point out that we were eating starch on top of starch, to which we replied, “That’s why it tastes so good.”

But whether you live on a farm with your own special home-cooked meals or live in a city with turkey and Stove Top stuffing, there’s a lot to be thankful for as we enter this holiday season. Even in Washington, with all its divisions, there is reason to give thanks.
As I look at the legislative landscape, here are some developments for which I am thankful:

  • Bipartisan members of Congress who support farmers. We recently kicked off our call to action on the Next Generation Fuels Act, which would increase demand for corn ethanol. This bill would not be possible without the hard work of Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill), who introduced the bill. And it would not have any momentum if not for the bipartisan support of 17 members in the U.S. House of Representatives. On so many issues, corn growers have champions on both sides of the aisle, a rare occurrence in Washington these days. This support has resulted in our many successes over the years and hopefully many more in the years to come.
  • Farmers who aren’t afraid to speak up. I never ceased to be inspired by the advocacy skills and work of our corn growers. Our farmers somehow manage to do all the many things they’re expected to do on the farm, even during harvest, while still finding time to travel to Washington to talk with their members of Congress. Thanks to these articulate and savvy advocates, Washington policymakers get a firsthand account of how their policies affect rural America. That’s far more effective than just giving them white papers with facts and figures. Simply put, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without our dedicated farmers.
  • Policymakers who aren’t afraid to listen. Hollywood often portrays Congress as an institution where people are out for themselves. But I have found that the nation’s policymakers often care deeply about the issues and how they affect Americans. Some of these policymakers may come from areas where farming is not a pressing issue, but I have seen many cases where they will listen intently, take in the information and vote their conscience. In a time when the beleaguered politician is under attack, this is an ode to those who care enough to listen to everyone.
  • Promising legislation with funding benefiting farmers. Thanks to our supporters in Congress, the bipartisan infrastructure bill contains billions of dollars for initiatives that would be helpful for farmers, specifically providing upgrades to the nation’s ports and inland waterways and extending broadband internet access for rural areas. An estimated 29% of farmers don’t have access to internet service, an important tool for marketing crops and planning for planting season. Now, we must get this bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • Talented colleagues who care deeply about the issues and are effective advocates for farmers. The NCGA staff in St. Louis and Washington and staff at our state organizations come from all walks of life. Some grew up on farms, others didn’t. But they all approach their work with commitment, and they are resolved to make a difference for corn growers. I enjoy working with these professionals and seeing the dynamism they bring to the table.

While I am optimistic, I am not naïve. I know that there are challenges ahead of us. We are fully aware of Washington’s extensive divisions and how they could affect legislation that is important to farmers. But it is important to take time to think about all the things that are going well.

I hope you enjoy the upcoming holiday season. My husband, son and I will be spending the holiday with family. My husband has finally learned to enjoy dual starches. And THAT is something which to be thankful!

Appleton is Vice President of Public Policy for the National Corn Growers Association. Ears in Washington, which is produced monthly, focuses on the federal policy issues important to corn growers.