Written by Jonathan Eisenthal
Coming from across the state, 20 grower-leaders from Minnesota’s corn organizations visited members of Congress, their key aides and other government officials to register their concern about the uncertainty created by current deliberations over changes to water quality regulations under consideration at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In particular, changes to the definition of ‘navigable waters’ to include ditches and even surface runoff from farm fields would mean EPA would have a direct impact on agriculture through new rules it could apply under the Clean Water Act.
Farmers like John Mages, who serves as chairman of the government relations committee for the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, came to Washington to attend the two-day annual meeting of the National Corn Growers Association, aka “Corn Congress.”
The gathering also gave these farmers a chance to make ‘Hill visits’ and voice their concerns directly to key representatives, senators and agency staff.
“We like to see our representatives, to show that rural Minnesota cares about what is happening in Washington,” Mages said. “It’s essential to communicate about how the decisions in Washington impact the way we do business as farmers.”
Aside from the questions regarding rulemaking on water quality policy, farmers talked with their representatives and senators about the new farm bill.
Mages, who farms in Belgrade noted that Texas A&M University and the University of Illinois are both developing farm bill ‘decision calculators’ to help farmers decide how to use the provisions of the 2014 farm bill. The new farm bill offers two types of support that can either cover an entire farm or individual crops within a farm.
Delegates to Corn Congress elected officers to the NCGA board, terms beginning in October. Also in October, NCGA CEO Rick Tolman steps down after 14 years leading the organization. Members celebrated his accomplishments, and marked his tenure as a period of dynamic growth for NCGA.
Another issue of great concern to many corn farmers is how EPA has been dealing with the Renewable Fuels Standard. EPA has proposed changes that would lower the amount of ethanol blended in the nation’s transportation fuel supply. EPA has yet to make a decision on a final number following the comment period on its proposal, leaving farmers and the ethanol industry anxious.
“The farmers and the ethanol producers got up a really good campaign of letter writing to express how negative this proposal would be,” Mages said. “But now they are just leaving us dangling. The uncertainty of the new rule adds to the damage because there are decisions that need to be made depending on which way this goes.”
Mages gives additional details on Corn Congress and Minnesota corn farmers in Washington in the below radio interviews.