Trade and farm bill implementation were hot topics at last week's Commodity Classic in Orlando, but voting delegates for major commodity groups also threw in health care and infrastructure debates for good measure.
The Classic — the annual meeting of the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Sorghum Producers, and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers — wrapped up Saturday after a near-record crowd spent a few days in Florida. The policy sessions for the organizations followed a familiar theme for the ag convention circuit: Recent passage of a farm bill made for quiet talks outside of trade and export promotion language.
On that subject, ASA voted to support another round of the Market Facilitation Program as producers continue their struggles with retaliatory tariffs hindering exports. MFP, the program offering payments to producers based on production impacted by retaliatory tariffs, paid soybean producers $1.65 per bushel last year. ASA voted to support MFP’s extension “if market losses in U.S. ag exports continue as a result of tariffs.”
ASA also moved a pair of health insurance amendments — one supporting 100 percent tax deductibility for health insurance premiums for farm businesses, another supporting a refundable tax credit equal to half the producer’s annual health care premium cost.
ASA members were divided over whether nonprofits should pay property taxes if they dedicate land to wildlife habitat. The motion ultimately passed on voice vote.
NCGA’s deliberations were fairly expedient and only involved debate on a handful of motions. One, a measure brought by the Illinois Corn Growers Association, opposed new lockage or toll fees to pay for running the inland waterway system - an idea that has been proposed from time to time to supplement federal funding. Some members thought the idea conflicted with NCGA’s support for the per-gallon barge diesel fuel user fee the association supports, causing the need for some clarification within the ranks.
Another Illinois resolution dealing with the EPA’s “Substantially Similar” rule was cause for debate among NCGA delegates. The language supported amending the sub-sim language to clarify EPA’s designation of the ethanol blends from E10 through E15 as substantially similar. According to the EPA, sub-sim language is "used in the Clean Air Act to distinguish which fuels and fuel additives are prohibited by EPA." Some delegates worried this would tie NCGA policy to the 15 percent blend, not higher as some would prefer, but an effort to refer the language back to committee failed and it was ultimately added to NCGA’s policy book.
Outside of organization-specific debates, implementation of the 2018 farm bill and securing export markets for U.S. commodities remain top priorities for the groups heading into the remainder of 2019.
“Trade’s kind of one, two, and three on the priority list,” NSP CEO Tim Lust told reporters, and until markets can be reopened, “everything else kind of pales in comparison.”
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