This week's guest on Open Mic is Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin. The Illinois Democrat sees promise in the opening weeks of the 114th Congress. Senator Durbin says more open floor debate may lead to compromise on complex issues including trade and nutrition, however, he believes tax reform and immigration may be too divisive for this Congress to resolve. During this in-depth interview, he also offers interesting perspective on crop insurance, estate taxes, GMO labeling, the Renewable Fuel Standard and the EPA.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Citing recent research on farm income, the secretary is intently concerned about the financial outlook for small- and medium-sized farms in the nation. Vilsack believes alternative income streams from carbon sequestration, meat packing and next-generation fuels can provide opportunities for these operations to keep pace with economic challenges and survive their operations. Ahead of the upcoming farm bill process, Vilsack hopes for flexibility from Congress in providing disaster assistance to farms and rural communities. Vilsack and USDA staff have been in close consultations with Mexican leaders and industry on a proposed ban on U.S. GMO corn imports beginning next year.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla. The former House Ag Committee chairman is back on the panel in time to help craft a new farm bill, and he says the budget and spending will be an issue in nearly every policy proposal crossing the House floor in the 118th Congress. Lucas believes a new farm bill can be delivered on time in the year ahead but admits there could be a number of issues — including nutrition programs — that could slow work on the bill. Lucas also discusses the implications of concessions made by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to gain enough votes to secure the Speaker's gavel.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Steve Becraft, general manager and CEO of Southern States Cooperative. The farmer-owned retailer is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Becraft acknowledges the many challenges farmers and their cooperative have survived and looks forward to new horizons of meeting the needs of the customers and communities they serve. After a recent marriage with Growmark, Becraft says the group is on solid financial footing. In this interview, Becraft discusses the challenges of urban sprawl, labor and transportation as well as the opportunity of helping farmers find sustainable solutions to improve productivity and efficiency in their operations.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Jon Doggett, who retired as CEO of the National Growers Association at the end of 2022. In this interview, Doggett reflects on leaders and policy events in history where ag leaders met the challenges facing the industry. Doggett also discusses the role environmental issues may play in developing new farm programs, the odds of approving a new farm bill in 2023 and the implications of Mexico’s proposed ban on GMO corn.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Charles Baron, co-founder and chief innovation officer of Farmers Business Network. What began as a small group of farmers sharing seed performance information has become an international network of thousands of farmers and millions of acres. FBN has expanded its original model of data sharing to include product packaging, a national network of warehouses, farmer financing and access to carbon-sequestering farming practices. In this interview, Baron discusses the network’s growth and opportunities for expansion in North America and around the world.