Farmer leaders with the National Corn Growers Association outlined their policy agenda at this week’s Commodity Classic, held in San Antonio, Texas. Over 9,000 people attended the convention, focusing on business improvement sessions and a gaggle of technology-driven products sprinkled throughout a busy trade show.
Despite short term net income problems for farmers, the long term outlook for agriculture is good, said Wesley Spurlock, a Texas-based corn farmer and president of NCGA.
“While this current slump isn’t as severe as the ‘80s, the challenges are real and pervasive, especially for those who are struggling,” he said. “At times like this it’s important for NCGA and its 40,000 members to push forward with an aggressive agenda.”
Spurlock said trade would be NCGA’s top priority. “We will protect the gains we’ve made in previous trade agreements,” he said. “Corn farmers have benefited from NAFTA. Under this agreement Mexico became one of our biggest global customers for corn and corn products.”
Leaders also discussed recent threats by the Mexican government to begin importing corn from South America if a trade war between Mexico and the U.S. erupts. Spurlock noted that U.S. corn is shipped to Mexico mainly by rail, and there is very little infrastructure for Mexico to receive ocean shipments. “But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t do it,” he added. “We need to make sure the new administration understands the value of exports to American agriculture. We have built our agriculture on the ability to feed our nation and also to move it out to the rest of the world.”
With the Trans Pacific Partnership off the table, Spurlock said NCGA would look forward to accelerating new bilateral trade agreements that can benefit corn and livestock exports.
“Exports are a key driver for our country. We continue to partner with other groups like livestock to grow access to foreign markets.”
NCGA will also lobby hard to protect and grow the biofuel industry. “Growth in ethanol demand is crucial to farmers and our nation’s economy,” Spurlock said. “The industry creates 300,000 jobs and provides customers with high octane fuel that enhances engine performance… and costs less than regular gas. It’s imperative that we protect the integrity of the Renewable Fuel Standard.”
The next farm bill is also on NCGA’s radar. CEO Chris Novak said the big three commodity groups – corn, soybeans and wheat – all meet regularly to discuss needs in the next farm bill.
“There may be economic differences between crops, but when we can sit together and work out these differences, it makes the congressman’s job easier,” he said.
Added board chairman Chip Bowling: “We’re always talking about what works best for everybody. Sometimes there are winners and losers but we strive for everyone to have an equal share in what comes out of the farm bill.”