By Amanda Bilek, Minnesota Corn Growers Association Senior Public Policy Director
Last week the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) was in Washington D.C. with our fellow state corn organizations to participate in Corn Congress. Corn grower delegates and alternates from across the U.S. come together twice a year to debate and adopt new policy positions that make up the National Corn Growers Association policy book, which gives direction on federal policy positions.
At July Corn Congress, delegates elect directors to the National Corn Growers Association board of directors. MCGA Board Chairman Harold Wolle campaigned this year for a spot on the Corn Board and was elected by the delegate body to serve a three-year term. A hearty congratulations to Harold Wolle on his successful election. Wolle joins MCGA director Tom Haag in representing the nation’s corn farmers on the national board.
In addition to the delegate sessions at Corn Congress, MCGA grower leaders also spend time on Capitol Hill meeting with members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation, key lawmakers from outside of Minnesota and federal agencies with duties that impact agriculture. There was no shortage of issues to discuss.
Although there are significant challenges currently facing corn growers, it was an excellent time to be in D.C. to advocate for federal policy priorities and to communicate the need to address these challenges and provide policy certainty for growers.
In the last month, trade uncertainty and anxiety has increased as the Trump administration has taken steps to confront predatory trade practices of foreign countries. Unfortunately agriculture has been one of the first sectors to suffer negative economic consequences as a result of retaliatory tariffs from other countries. Earlier today, USDA announced specific actions and aid programs that will be offered to farmers impacted by retaliatory tariffs.
Farmers have consistently advocated for increased access to foreign markets and agriculture has been one of the bright spots in the United States balance of trade. As farmers already know, markets won are fragile and can be easily lost. A message delivered by MCGA leaders in Washington was because U.S. trade policy has cost market access for farmers, the farm bill should be strengthened, in addition to quickly resolving ongoing trade disputes and successfully completing a NAFTA modernization agreement.
During each visit, MCGA leaders stressed the importance of completing the farm bill reauthorization by September 30 in order to provide certainty to farmers and ranchers. As the House and Senate move toward a conference committee to reconcile differences, MCGA leaders stressed the need to strengthen title one (ARC and PLC) programs where possible and fully protect crop insurance. Other important farm bill priorities are to increase maximum borrowing limits under Farm Service Agency operating and ownership loans, support a strong Conservation Reserve Program with enrollment targeted towards fragile lands, and the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development programs should be fully funded and maintained.
Renewable Fuel Standard and Ethanol Blends
A third major federal issue for MCGA is to finally grant a waiver to allow year-round sales of ethanol blends above 10 percent. President Trump has indicated his support for this waiver, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should not delay action any further. Issuing this waiver could also help to mitigate severe impacts of current trade disruptions.
Additionally, MCGA grower leaders stressed the importance of increasing annual renewable fuel obligations (RVO) to offset lost demand due to EPA granting waivers to oil refineries. Even though MCGA was pleased to see EPA propose to set the 2019 RVO at 15 billion gallons for corn ethanol, previously waived gallons from the obligation must be addressed if those annual levels are going to provide market demand at a time when it is desperately needed.
Although there are significant federal issues and challenges facing Minnesota corn farmers, MCGA will continue to be an advocate in D.C. and in St. Paul to meet these challenges head on and achieve the best possible outcome for our state’s corn growers.