This week’s Open Mic guest is Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. The group’s annual meeting will be virtual this week with no shortage of topics to embrace for the new year. Conner says the group is hopeful the Biden administration will reconsider tax changes offered in the last hour by the previous administration and that legislators will be willing to embrace much-needed changes to immigration reform. Conner expects antagonists to use the upcoming climate debate to attack livestock producers but believes agriculture has enough positive evidence to win the day. Conner offers comments on using the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation to facilitate a carbon bank and the need for global market diversification.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. The nation’s ethanol industry was already in a state of financial stress before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the nation and sharply reduced demand for liquid motor fuels. In this interview, Skor discusses the challenges from the Trump administration’s approval of small refinery exemptions and the need for investment in retail infrastructure to meet consumer demand for fuels with higher ethanol blends. Recent studies support higher ethanol blends will help achieve climate goals for the U.S. and for global customers.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Tom Halverson, president and CEO of CoBank. The balance of debt stocks of U.S. farmers has grown during the downturn in the overall farm economy, but thankfully, the load of debt service has been eased by the tailwinds of increased global trade and higher commodity prices as well as very low interest rates. CoBank’s Halverson expects borrowing rates to remain low and farm income to improve as global commodity stocks remain tight in the near future. Halverson is hopeful the Biden administration will pursue an aggressive global trade strategy and says the ag industry must be prepared to defend its position as part of the solution in any climate policy.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Jim Sutter, CEO of the U.S. Soybean Export Council. In a matter of a few short months, the value of soybeans has seen an astronomical market spike. Sutter says China’s renewed appetite for U.S. soy is a big reason, but not the only bullish influence in the market. Sutter says collaboration with other commodity organizations and USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service has helped revive global demand and improve the industry’s balance of trade. Sutter says the U.S. soybean sustainability message is strong and could help other countries achieve their climate objectives. Sutter says the Biden administration's trade agenda will be a critical influence on the soybean market’s long term outlook.
This week’s Open Mic guest is Ian Jefferies, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads. The rail industry is enjoying an upswing in shipping volumes with the return of global demand for ag commodities following trade tensions with China and the ill effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jefferies says the industry partnered with agriculture and others in the call for Congress to approve USMCA and is hopeful global trade opportunities will expand. While the rail industry invests billions in its own infrastructure annually, they’re hopeful the incoming Biden administration will bring renewed financial support for the nation’s dilapidated bridges and locks and dams. AAR supports an updated highway bill and believes the rail industry can play a significant role in climate priorities in the 117th Congress.
This week’s Open Mic Guest is USDA Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey. Nearing the end of his tenure as the first FPAC leader, Northey suggests the majority of work on implementing the 2018 farm bill is done as well the heavy lifting for the first two rounds of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program funding for a diverse group of farmers and ranchers across the nation. Ahead, Northey believes Congress should consider some mechanism for ad hoc assistance to be administered through USDA's Commodity Credit Corps. without additional legislative action. Northey believes CCC limits should be addressed in a new farm bill and believes a shift to climate-smart farm programs will include a number of conservation practices farmers are already implementing voluntarily. He says adequate broadband service is still an issue the Biden administration will need to address.