Shirley Bloomfield, the CEO of NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association says rural customers want the same speed, clarity and quality of service as other Americans, but her members face several challenges delivering 21st Century technology, in part because wireless still needs a wired network. Her association is working with farm groups and others on a new Smart Rural Community Initiative to help boost education, telemedicine and economic development in rural areas. She also explains how failure to pass a farm bill impacts rural America and telecommunications firms who rely on USDA rural development programs.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Jon Doggett, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association. The nation’s corn farmers have concerns about supply chain issues and the availability of fertilizer and crop protection products for the 2022 crop season. Doggett says it's important for farmer voices to be heard on fertilizer tariffs that limit supply and EPA protocols when considering the environmental impact on endangered species. Doggett says farmers and rural investors have fulfilled their obligation to provide feedstock and processing capacity to meet the volume goals for renewable fuels established in the Renewable Fuel Standard, and they’d like the EPA to enforce the law. He wants to see a regulatory environment for carbon sequestration and compensation and is hopeful the Biden administration will be aggressive in maintaining and growing global market opportunities for U.S. corn supplies.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Brad Nordholm, president and CEO of Farmer Mac. Farmland values have seen a tremendous appreciation over the past several months despite questions over the outlook for commodity prices and current inflationary pressures. In this interview, Nordholm discusses the similarities and differences between the farm economy of the 1980s and today. Nordholm applauds congressional approval of the infrastructure bill and questions if carbon capture will prove a meaningful source of income for farmers. He also embraces the challenge of bringing in the next generation of farmers and ranchers in this economic climate and is keeping a watchful eye on the extended drought in the West.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. The 900 consumer-owned coops in the nation are generally on solid footing and able to meet the needs of rural communities in the 47 states they serve. However, meeting the need for additional power demands will mean a significant investment in securing the base load as well as infrastructure. Matheson says over 60% of the current electric supply is being met with the burning of fossil fuels. Additional demand will need to be met with a reliable power supply. Electric cooperatives are assisting rural residents to gain access to broadband and Matheson hopes more cooperatives will expand service to more residents and at higher speeds.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Mike Seyfert, President and CEO of the National Grain and Feed Association. NFGA celebrates its 125th anniversary this week and maintains the same objectives and mission statement that brought the group together over a century ago. Seyfert says NGFA members celebrate House approval of the Infrastructure Bill and look forward to much needed improvements in the nation’s roads, bridges and waterways. Seyfert says NGFA supports competition in the rail industry and continued service to local elevators even to the last mile of service. NGFA supports funding toward expansion of conservation practices on working lands but is concerned with programs that would idle additional acres. Seyfert echoes comments from legislators that congressional ag leaders should be responsible for amending farm programs. NGFA supports free trade and would welcome attempts to see the U.S. join the CPTPP.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Andy LaVigne, president and CEO of the American Seed Trade Association. While farmers grapple with the price and availability of fertilizer and crop protection products for 2022, LaVigne says the seed industry should be well supplied and ready to meet seed demand for the new year. LaVigne says the seed industry needs consistent regulatory rules from Washington and uniform acceptance and guidance on new plant breeding techniques. LaVigne says global acceptance of new crop traits is essential to help farmers meet their production and sustainability goals. LaVigne sees new plant-based proteins, fuels and products as opportunities for growth for farmers and seed providers.