This week’s guest on Open Mic is Michele Simon, Executive Director for the Plant Based Foods Association. From their launch two years ago, the group has seen tremendous membership growth among companies that provide plant based alternatives to meat, eggs and milk. Nielsen data suggest a 20 percent growth in the industry last year. While traditional meat and dairy groups lobby Washington to crack down on labeling of plant based products, Simon says it’s the companies that should provide labeling solutions not government agencies that often represent other interests.
This week’s guest on Open Mic is the President and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. While dairy policy improvements in the 2018 farm bill have helped the financial plight of many milk producers, Vilsack says it’s the global trade front that presents the best opportunity for improvement to the bottom line. Vilsack hopes for a positive conclusion to a trade deal with Japan and says the Chinese market holds tremendous opportunity for U.S. dairy. Vilsack highlights global paradigms that could lead to greater demand for U.S. dairy products from both health conscious consumers and for feed for growing livestock herds.
This week’s guest on Open Mic is Missouri 5th district Representative Emanuel Cleaver. As a former Mayor of Kansas City and now serving his 7th term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Cleaver is well versed in the rural and agriculture needs in his district. As a Democratic leader, Cleaver supports the need for the USMCA trade agreement but agrees with Speaker Pelosi that labor assurances must be met. Cleaver agrees a tough stance on China’s trade practices was long overdue, but has differences with the White House tariff approach. Cleaver shares thoughts on renewable fuels and calls for a collective approach in addressing rural broadband needs in the country.
This week’s guest on Open Mic is Glen Smith, Board Chair and CEO of the Farm Credit Administration. The watchful eye of the Farm Credit Administration closely monitors the balance sheet of the Farm Credit System and its service to the nation’s farms and ranches. Iowa farmer turned FCA CEO, Smith says stable land values have provided equity farmers needed to restructure debt and maintain working capital. Smith says some of the states with the most financial concern lie in their service area of the Midwest. Farmers were able to maintain income despite lower prices last year because of larger crop production, but says that may not be the case this year. Smith says natural disasters have been extremely challenging for some operations with losses far exceeding areas covered by crop insurance and other risk management tools.
This week’s guest on Open Mic is Illinois 17th District Representative Cheri Bustos. With strong family ties to agriculture, the Illinois Democrat serves as a member of both the House Agriculture and Appropriations Committees. In this interview, Bustos shares concerns about the trade war with China and its “generational effects” on farmers in her district and across the country. Bustos says the Trump EPA’s administration of the RFS is deplorable and an “abomination of how it was set up”. Bustos recently offered her “Rural Green Partnership” to the House Special Committee on the Climate Crisis. The plan includes agriculture as a valuable tool in the battle against climate change.
This week’s guest on Open Mic is Representative Collin Peterson, Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture. The Minnesota Democrat believes agriculture is headed for some “serious tough sledding” and is concerned about whether the 2018 farm safety net will be adequate to protect the industry. He worries that market facilitation payments may undermine future needs for additional price supports. Peterson wants answers from the Environmental Protection Agency about the small refinery waivers that are negatively impacting the ethanol industry and farmers and expresses skepticism about farm support for legislation to address climate change.