Open Mic Replay - An Extensive Catalog of Our Audio Interviews


David Lynn
Farmers are facing a cyclical turn in the industry with a period of lower crop prices, reduced net farm income and a likely increase in interest rates.This week's guest on Open Mic is David Lynn, Senior Vice-President for Financial Services with Farm Credit Mid-America. Lynn believes the industry is better prepared than in years past to weather the financial downturn. Lynn says farmers are more dependent on crop insurance than ever before and he fears program changes could put more farmers at risk. Lynn believes the uncertain US tax code is a challenge for farmers and says commercial ag lenders would be better served to look for ways to work together to serve rural communities than challenging a lending institution that operates under strict guidelines from the federal government.

Krysta Harden
USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden says it is critical for the government to provide a reasonable safety net for farmers, but that all programs- including crop insurance and conservation - must be scrutinized as part of the annual budget process. She shares her perspectives on farm bill implementation, USDA's budget plan for 2016, and the importance of giving President Obama fast track authority to expand trade. Harden says the USDA will soon release its definition of actively engaged in farming with intent to have the policy in place for the 2016 crop year after an open comment period.

Philip Seng, Pres. and CEO USMEF
International trade can be a gold mine for beef and pork producers as well as the grain growers they rely on for feed. However, U.S. red meat exports are challenged from lower domestic production and the rising value of the U.S. dollar. In this week's Open Mic in-depth interview, Philip Seng, President and CEO of the US Meat Export Federation, says the value, quality and consistency of the US product has helped the industry maintain and expand its place in the globe - despite tough competition from places like Australia and the European Union. Seng says over the next decade Asia will be home to 65 percent of the world's middle class and that's another reason to concentrate on global trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership.

House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway
As Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee in the 114th Congress, Mike Conaway has revised the subcommittee structure to allow for closer policy oversight and careful attention to reauthorization of nutrition programs and futures trading. In his first audio interview on ag issues this year, Conaway covers a wide variety of topics. He expects congressional action on immigration policy but isn't sure tax reform will be a part of the early congressional agenda. The Texas Republican says the budget process will dominate the early days of the new congress and expects budget reconciliation to play a major role in policy reform and debate. Conaway says the government must respect industry investments made within the Renewable Fuels Standard but questions overall volumes.

Senator John Thune-SD
South Dakota U.S. Senator John Thune believes even a divided government can be successful. After meeting with other GOP leaders at the White House last week, Thune believes the 114th Congress can work with the Obama administration on both trade cyber security and national security. Thune says a revision to the nation's tax code is possible but the executive and legislative branches of government are obviously at odds over the Keystone Pipeline and Obamacare. Senator Thune didn't agree with every provision of the new farm bill and says some supports may be difficult to defend if producers allow policy to dictate planting decisions.

Secretary Tom Vilsack
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says American agriculture needs to build on the positive momentum of 2014. For the year ahead Vilsack says the relationship between the new GOP led congress and the Obama Administration on trade, transportation, budget and regulatory issues will set the pace for the industry. Vilsack says USDA continues to work toward implementation of new farm policy including a definition of those actively engaged in farming. Nutrition is on the agenda for the new year with a scope ranging from school lunches to new dietary guidelines for the nation from the USDA.

Andrew LaVigne
New innovations in seed breeding and biotechnology hold promise of helping members of the American Seed Trade Association to continue their goal of providing high quality seed to their customers. However, consumer acceptance and regulatory approval of new seed traits proves to be a continuing challenge for the seed industry. Andy LaVigne, President and CEO of the ASTA says they're introducing an educational campaign to help farmers, consumers and government agencies understand what seed companies are doing to bring new varieties to the market place. LaVigne ASTA's goal is to have a regulatory structure that is clear and transparent for the seed industry.

John Kavulich, Sr Policy Advisor
Following months of secret talks between the two countries, President Obama is using executive power to re-establishing diplomatic relations and easing economic and travel restrictions with Cuba. While he cannot unilaterally end the nation's economic embargo without congressional action, the president's move has been welcomed by many agriculture groups and some legislators. John Kavulich, Senior Policy Advisor for the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council believes the key to additional commerce between the two nation's lies in credit and acceptance by both governments.

Charlie OBrien, Sr VP-Association of Equipment Manufacturers
The push for agriculture productivity and sustainability has brought rapid innovation for farm machines in the US and around the globe. While global food, fiber and fuel demand promise opportunity for machinery manufacturers, the agriculture equipment industry faces real challenges from a global economic downturn, higher emission standards, uncertain U.S. tax policy and a paradigm shift in net farm income from lower commodity prices. Charlie O'Brien, Senior Vice President for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers says technology in the coming generations of farm machinery will lead to a more rapid turnover of equipment sales as producers strive to maximize both efficiency and production.

Senator Saxby Chambliss
US Senator Saxby Chambliss is returning to his home in Georgia after two decades of service in Washington. A strong advocate for rural America and agriculture, Chambliss believes challenges will come in the 114th congress to risk management tools approved in the new farm law. Chambliss says urban representation on the agriculture committees and budget constraints will make approving new farm policy even more difficult in the years to come. As a member of the 'Gang of Six', Chambliss says there will be consequences if elected leaders don't address some very difficult fiscal decisions.

Chairman Frank Lucas
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas persevered with agriculture groups and congressional leaders to bring a new farm bill to law. In the 114th Congress, Lucas says he'll be diligent to protect funding for the risk management tools he sees essential for the nation's farmers and ranchers. Lucas favors Trade Promotion Authority for the administration and supports incoming committee chairman Congressman Mike Conaway's plans for hearings on nutrition and other aspects of farm policy.

Senator Tom Harkin
Iowa US Senator Tom Harkin has been a voice for farm and rural issues for four decades in Washington. Working with eight different farm bills, Harkin championed the nation's efforts on conservation, nutrition, energy and farm policy. The Iowa Democrat says future farm policy will require a broader coalition of voters that represent rural issues as well as agriculture and more tools to protect natural resources.

Senator Mike Johanns
Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns believes the lame duck agenda will be brief and the 114th congress challenged with a blizzard of regulatory authority exerted from the Obama administration. While the GOP majority in both the House and Senate cannot be ignored, both chambers may struggle to muster enough votes to override a presidential veto on key issues. Johanns expects a tremendous amount of energy around the appropriations and budget process in the new congress. Many wonder what might be the next political step for this Nebraska Republican.

Tom Gallagher, CEO of Dairy Management Inc.
While the dairy industry has seen improved financial stability this year, Tom Gallagher CEO of Dairy Management Incorporated says the combination of larger global supplies and unstable economies makes the 2015 dairy outlook more challenging. Domestically, Gallagher says DMI has signed seven different partnerships to boost fluid milk consumption to a health and wellness minded consumer base. The effort will see an investment of over half a billion dollars in new packaging and new products to grow market share at home and with consumers around the world.

Tom Dempsey, CEO of the Snack Food Association
Along with other food and beverage manufacturers, the Snack Food Association opposes individual state mandated food labels. Tom Dempsey, CEO of the SFA says their members aren't concerned about the safety of foods with ingredients from genetically enhanced crops but they do support a single federal law regarding food labeling and GMOs. Dempsey says the menu of snack foods continues to expand and is finding a larger share of consumer's diets with portable foods consumed between meals.

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