This week’s Open Mic guest is Brian Kuehl, executive director of Farmers for Free Trade. The group recently hosted a fly-in to give members the opportunity to encourage both Congress and the Biden administration to exert more energy on opening global market access through expanded trade agreements. Kuehl says trade should be a bipartisan issue, and legislative leaders must push the administration to act in the global trade arena. U.S. agriculture export value set a record last year, but this year's ag imports are expected to exceed export totals. Kuehl says it’s been a decade since the U.S. signed a free-trade agreement with Central America, and other countries have signed hundreds of deals expanding opportunities for their products.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Ted McKinney, CEO of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. The group has finalized its policy priorities for 2023 and is ready to assist lawmakers in developing a new farm bill. McKinney says NASDA members will let other farm groups take the lead on the specifics of commodity programs, but are very concerned that the U.S. is lagging in public agriculture research. NASDA is taking a greater interest in international trade and is pleased to see the Biden trade team engaged in global markets. McKinney says NASDA members oppose the EPA’s new Waters of the U.S. definition and want to see action on ag labor and workforce development issues.
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.