(Minnesota Senator Tina Smith met with MCGA grower leaders and staff earlier this week)
By Amanda Bilek, Minnesota Corn Growers Association senior public policy director
Minnesota Corn Growers Association’s (MCGA) public policy efforts work at both the state and federal levels. Earlier this week, a group of MCGA board members traveled to Washington D.C. to advocate for federal policy priorities. This advocacy was taking place at a time when uncertain U.S. trade policy could have negative impacts on farmers when net farm income is already at its lowest in 12 years.
The spring D.C. fly-in took place during an active time for members of Congress, who were working on several major pieces of legislation before a two-week spring recess. Despite the flurry of activity, MCGA leaders were able to connect with members of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation to discuss the Farm Bill, trade and the Renewable Fuel Standard.
The major focus of the spring D.C. fly-in was to emphasize the need for a Farm Bill and support for specific programs. The current Farm Bill expires this fall and over the next several months Congress will be moving through the process to authorize a new five-year bill. It is critically important that a strong Farm Bill be developed and enacted into law this year to provide relief and certainty for Minnesota corn farmers.
Given the current economic challenges facing farmers, MCGA grower leaders emphasized the need to protect and strengthen the Farm Bill safety net. For the ARC and PLC programs, agriculture committee members could consider a stronger combined PLC/ARC approach that would provide greater reliability, or if the current programs are maintained, an option to make a new election is necessary for farmers. MCGA also advocated that any efforts to weaken crop insurance should be rejected.
In meetings with Congressional members, MCGA grower leaders also discussed how the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) could be best targeted towards fragile lands by supporting a rental rate that would not exceed 80 percent of county rental rates. This structure could also increase the number of acres in CRP while maintaining baseline funding.
Another Farm Bill priority is to maintain funding for the Market Access program and Foreign Market Development. Both of these programs help farmers market their products, as well as access new overseas markets.
Trade and Renewable Fuel Standard
Although meetings focused on Farm Bill programs, MCGA leaders also discussed the importance of trade agreements and the Renewable Fuel Standard as markets for corn. Specifically, the group conveyed how changes to programs or potentially retaliatory measures from foreign markets as a result of U.S. trade policy could have a significant negative impacts on farm income and corn markets.
For trade, Minnesota farmers need increased access to foreign markets, and if U.S. trade policy harms market access, the Farm Bill needs to further be strengthened so agriculture and trade infrastructure can meet food, fiber and fuel needs.
On the RFS, as we have previously written about here and here, the administration and Congress should not adopt any proposal that would put a cap on the price of RINs. The most effective solution to address RIN price concerns that have been raised by some oil refiners is to allow for the year-round sale of E15 and increase the volume of ethanol-blended fuel. MCGA leaders also shared with Congressional officers the infrastructure investments Minnesota corn farmers have made to significantly increase consumer access to higher ethanol blends and how we lead the country in the amount of ethanol-blended fuel sold and used.
During the spring D.C. fly-in, MCGA leaders also had the opportunity to join meetings with Congressional offices from across the country by partnering with the Southwest Council of Agribusiness and present a unified message on Farm Bill priorities for U.S. farmers from the north and the south.
We will be sure to keep you updated on MCGA policy priorities at state and federal levels as Congress updates the Farm Bill and we move through the Minnesota legislative session.
If you have a question about any of the above or any policy-related issued, please contact Amanda Bilek at firstname.lastname@example.org.