The annual gathering of some of the most recognizable commodity groups in ag policy was perhaps as notable for what it didn’t include as what it did.
With about 18 months to go before the current farm bill expires, participants in this year’s Commodity Classic – held last week in New Orleans – mostly shied away from updating their policy stances for the upcoming legislation. Instead, the groups are opting to give Congress more time to conduct oversight on the current legislation and say they plan to dive into the 2023 reauthorization at upcoming summer fly-ins.
While some groups did tinker with their stands on a handful of farm bill issues, the bulk of the dialogue in the lengthy discussions of the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers and National Sorghum Producers focused on other matters such as the swelling cost of input prices, the ag industry’s reaction to the war in Ukraine and addressing the increasing volume of the sustainability conversation.
Perhaps the most contentious provision ASA delegates debated last week involved efforts to secure premiums for soybeans grown with “carbon-smart practices” that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Several delegates argued farmers should reap extra rewards for their greener growing practices, but language demanding those premiums was eventually struck down. Other delegates argued heatedly that premiums could eventually turn into expected standards, raising the cost of production for all farmers with no extra benefit.
“This could turn a premium into a discount,” one delegate said, arguing farmers could eventually get lower prices for not doing what was previously considered an extra effort. That argument won the day in a split vote.
For its part, NCGA delegates also approved a resolution calling for climate-smart commodities to be “clearly defined with an industry approved, science-based process.”
“No one has really landed where they’re going to be at all, but by putting these big targets on the wall, we’re now ready to have those discussions on what will really work to bring that stability into the marketplace, into the farmer’s operations and tell the world we’re doing it right,” Linder said.
“That’s really what this is about; we need to get it right, because 97, 98% of our customers live outside of our borders,” he added. “They deserve choice, and they want to know that we’re doing great things.”
Going further on the environmental front, ASA delegates looked to counter foreign sustainability demands that will likely come from places like the European Union and its Green Deal. The delegates approved a new resolution that “supports measures to prohibit U.S. adherence to sovereign nations or global entities from setting environmental and/or water quality standards more stringent than federal or state regulations.”
ASA delegates voted to add language that asks government regulators to work together with farmers to find “flexible, practical” solutions to protect endangered species and their habitats. Also, ASA delegates voted to oppose “the use of broad, disruptive restrictions, including county-wide prohibitions to implement Endangered Species Act requirements in pesticide registrations,” as has been done with Enlist herbicides.
NSP members also addressed climate issues and underscored the importance of certain crop protection chemicals – atrazine in particular – in the context of climate impact. The group believes sorghum can have a substantial role to play in the conservation dialogue given its ability to grow with scarce resources, something that will be particularly important given the ongoing drought in many sorghum production areas.
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On trade, ASA delegates took on the container crisis at ports. A lot of soybeans go into the feed of livestock, so the group acknowledged the importance of improving the flow of refrigerated containers of meat to Asia and elsewhere. U.S. beef and pork exports hit new records in 2021, but the industry is in agreement that totals could have been higher if not for the difficulties in getting containers onto ships. Congress is considering legislation to stop ocean carriers from refusing to load containers of ag exports and shipping back empties to China to try to profit on higher rates for U.S.-bound goods.
For NCGA members, delegate sessions included a focus on “leveling the playing field” between biofuels and other renewable energy sources, namely wind and solar. Delegates at the annual Corn Congress voted to call for a lifecycle analysis of “all renewable energy sources” with results that “should include the BTU energy required to install and service these systems compared to the lifetime energy output they provide.” A separate resolution also supported federal policy on wind and solar energy considering the “costs, reliability and land use change impacts to agriculture.”
With the biofuels industry seeking to underscore its availability to backfill lost oil inputs due to the fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, NCGA also voted to update its ethanol policy to support higher ethanol blends being sold across the country. The group also tweaked language to bring its policy in line with the Next Generation Fuels Act championed by Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., and also called for a “level playing field between electric and biofuels vehicles based on a full lifecycle analysis” using the Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions and Energy use in Technologies Model.
In a brief bit of farm bill discussion, delegates referred to an NCGA action team a push by Minnesota and South Dakota producers to call for higher reference prices for farm bill risk management programs and boosting the marketing assistance loan rate “to ensure that support under these programs is relevant to producers given current market demand and input costs.”
The discussions also served as an opportunity to set organizational directions outside of hard policy stances, such as a pair of votes taken by members of the National Association of Wheat Growers. That group voted to extend an invitation to the North Dakota Grain Growers Associavoted to end its NAWG affiliation in 2019.tion to rejoin the national organization. NDGGA
NAWG members also voted to add policy supporting diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. Specifically, the resolution said the group will work “with organizations that seek to guarantee all farmers and ranchers are treated fairly and equally in farm programs and by federal agencies regardless of race, color, gender, sexual orientation, age, national origin or ancestry, physical or mental disability, or veteran status.”
“We didn't really have a concrete policy with regard to that,” NAWG President Nicole Berg, who was pressed on the subject at a recent House Ag Committee hearing, told Agri-Pulse. “And being the second woman president. I do think that this is definitely a policy that needed to be put forth.”
Jesse Campbell contributed to this report.
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