Trade and Crop Insurance Top Farmer Policy Concerns
With federal lawmakers about to head back home for the August recess, farmers are sharpening their message on what agricultural priorities need to be addressed. This week, the House Ag committee held a hearing on Farm Bill issues, while the Senate Ag Committee held a hearing on crop insurance.
On Wednesday, the Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Growers will hold a policy summit to discuss the priorities that need to be addressed in Washington. ISA executive director Jane Ade Stevens says rewriting NAFTA is one of the biggest concerns, “NAFTA is something that has worked very well. While we are not opposed to modernizing the agreement, we strongly support its continuation.” Another issue of concern to corn and soybean farmers is approval of biotech traits by other countries, most notably China. Stevens states, “By delaying the approval of biotech traits in seeds, it puts U.S. farmers at a disadvantage.”
Randy Kron, President of Indiana Farm Bureau, says addressing trade issues left unresolved when the U.S. pulled out of the Trans Pacific Partnership deal need to be addressed, “We want the administration to start negotiating those trade deals and open markets for U.S. producers.” He said U.S. farmers want a level playing field and trade agreements that lower barriers to U.S. farm products are a way to achieve that, “We need to be moving forward on these as fast as we can.”
Other issues likely to be discussed at the summit include crop insurance, conservation, research, and nutrition programs. A farmer panel discussion will focus on producer priorities followed by updates from Patrick Delaney, Director, Policy Communication, American Soybean Association; and Brooke Appleton, Director, Public Policy and Political Strategy, National Corn Growers Association.
On Tuesday the Senate Ag Committee heard strong testimony from several farmers on the importance of crop insurance. National Corn Growers Association Board member Bruce Rohwer testified in support of crop insurance. “Crop insurance and commodity title programs are particularly important to family farmers who earn a majority of their household income from the farm. Without crop insurance and commodity title payments, the financial wherewithal of these farms would likely face serious erosion in the current environment,” said Rohwer, who raises corn and soybeans and runs a sow farrow-to-finish operation in Paullina, Iowa.
Rohwer noted that corn prices have averaged below $4.00 per bushel since 2013 and are projected to average $3.35 this marketing year. The annual crop value of corn fell from nearly $77 billion in 2011 to just over $51 billion in 2016, the effects of which have been felt throughout the agriculture industry. Restoring a strong farm economy is good not only for farmers, but also the businesses they support, Rohwer testified. “The sharp drop in farm income increases the financial stress for farmers, as well as employees of agriculture-related businesses, such as equipment manufacturers. Everyone tied to the ag economy is affected,” said Rohwer.