When all the different components of a motor work properly, the truck moves down the road smoothly. So it is when Indiana’s corn and soybean farmers work with the state’s meat, dairy and poultry producers. That partnership was on display on Tuesday during the second day of the Indiana Corn and Soybean Forum.
The Forum is an annual event produced by the Indiana Corn Growers Association (ICGA) and the Indiana Soybean Alliance (ISA). This year’s Forum, due to COVID-19 restrictions, is virtual instead of in-person. Those same pandemic-related rules also converted Indiana Pork’s annual Midwest Pork Conference (MPC) to a virtual event. The two events overlapped on Tuesday, so they shared that time to talk about the new strategic plans for ISA and the Indiana Corn Marketing Council (ICMC), and to listen to MPC keynote speaker Ray Starling, a farm lawyer who has worked for USDA and advised President Trump.
ISA, ICGA and ICMC CEO Courtney Kingery said successful growth of Indiana’s livestock sector is a strong feature of the new, three-year strategic plans for the state’s corn and soybean checkoffs. Each strategic plan is built on four primary focus areas, which include:
- Market Development – moving corn and soybeans to customers and end users.
- Sustainability – balancing environmental, societal and economic practices that benefit farmers.
- Value Creation – developing new products and uses from soybeans and corn.
- Producer Engagement – inviting farmers to participate in checkoff programs.
Kingery said investment in livestock programs is a primary feature of Market Development. “This is all about moving the pile and increasing demand,” she explained. “One of the largest investment areas in Market Development is in livestock – specifically supporting domestic and export meat and poultry demand. Livestock is the largest customer for corn and soybeans in Indiana, so it’s an important part of the strategic plans.”
ISA board member Mark Legan, a Coatesville, Ind., farmer and an executive board member of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, said the corn and soybean checkoffs are financially invested in the success of Indiana’s livestock farms.
“This year, the 2021 budget cycle that we’re on currently, livestock and poultry programs will account for about 21 percent of the (ISA) budget. Of that, about 15 percent goes for direct project spends on these export programs,” Legan said. “We do spend some money helping producers – particularly in Indiana – partnering with Indiana Pork and Indiana Farm Bureau on policy issues that affect livestock so that we can expand the market for soybean meal.”
ICMC President Joshua Miller, an Anderson, Ind., farmer and Secretary-Treasurer of the U.S. Grains Council (USGC), explained that exporting grain in all of its various forms benefits American farmers. Miller said when pork producers in Vietnam who suffered losses due to African Swine Fever decided to convert their farms to poultry operations, nearby USGC visited to teach them about Dried Distillers Grains (DDGs), a livestock feed made as a byproduct from corn-based ethanol. Due to the efforts of USGC, Miller said, Vietnam is an emerging market for additional U.S. exports of DDGs.
ICGA President Mike Beard, a Frankfort, Ind., farmer and a board member of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council, said the corn checkoff plans to be a reliable partner for livestock producers. “The new strategic plan will continue this commitment,” Beard said. “It will continue to support the expansion of the Farmers Deliver program, and that’s a program that showcases the positive economic impact of livestock in the state of Indiana. And we’ll also continue to support further expansion of pork and other livestock and poultry that’s right here in Indiana.”
Federal farm policy expert Ray Starling served as the keynote speaker for the Midwest Pork Conference on Tuesday. Starling began his policy career in 2015 as General Counsel and later Chief of Staff for Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). In 2017, Starling moved to the White House as an agriculture and ag trade advisor to President Trump. Then in 2018, he became the Chief of Staff for USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, who he worked with for more than one year.
Starling said the federal government has pumped billions of dollars into U.S. agriculture for at least the past three years. In 2020, he said, government spending on agriculture – not counting welfare and supplemental food programs – will exceed $40 billion. These have largely come from Market Facilitation Program (MFP), Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) and government-managed crop insurance payments. “So, in a single year, agriculture is going to receive twice the direct payment payout as the entire automobile industry did back during the late 2000s,” he said.
Starling speculated that farm policy led by President-Elect Biden’s administration would focus on climate change and other environmental concerns rather than traditional farm programs and policies. Starling said the list of potential candidates for USDA Secretary are largely supported by environmental lobby groups. He added, though, there is an opportunity for farmers to better connect with consumers.
Bane-Welker Farm Equipment is the presenting sponsor for this week’s Forum. There are two remaining sessions for the Forum. They include:
- Thursday, Dec. 3, 11 a.m. to noon EST – ISA and ICGA staff members Ed Ebert and Steve Howell will join Amy Cornell of the AgriBusiness Council of Indiana and Andy Tauer of Indiana Farm Bureau to take a look at ag commodity markets and talk about grain buying topics.
- Friday, Dec. 4, noon to 1 p.m. – Nick Welker will speak on faith, family and farming from his home in Montana.
The Forum is available on Zoom, and there is no charge. Attendees must register at least 30 min prior to each session at indianasoybean.com/forum