Corn Congress asks US lawmakers to preserve farm safety net

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

Before the president and Congress resolve the national budget crisis, the number of dollars available for the US Farm Program is unknown and therefore getting down to specifics doesn’t make a lot of sense.

But scores of farm leaders, who came to Washington D.C. to participate in the National Corn Growers Association Corn Congress, delivered a general message: to the extent possible, preserve the farm safety net.

Cutting the farm program, which amounts to a quarter of one percent of the national budget, would amount to little more than a paper budget victory. “Disaster” bills and other ad hoc reactions put together when the crisis hits spend more money and are not as effective.

Corn Congress took care of important organizational business Wednesday. The 124 delegates–farmers from across the 28 corn growing states– elected five growers to the National Corn Growers Association board of directors for the 2012 fiscal year, which starts October 1: Chip Bowling of Maryland, Martin Barbre of Illinois, Lynn Chrisp of Nebraska, Bob Bowman of Iowa and Keith Alverson of South Dakota.

Each state’s group of delegates spent time on Wednesday and Thursday meeting with their state’s members of Congress.

“We delivered our message that crop insurance–protecting risk management at the individual farm level– is the most valuable part of farm program right now for corn farmers,” said Greg Schwarz, a farmer in Le Sueur and president of Minnesota Corn Growers Association. “Secondly, we asked that when Congress puts together the Farm Bill next year, the ACRE program or whatever that may turn into, should provide risk management during broader risks to the farm economy. And third, we asked them to consider some kind of ethanol support. We understand that VEETC (Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit) is going away. We are supportive of what Senator Klobuchar is trying to do, to get some of that money into infrastructure. We point to the jobs and the economic development value for Minnesota and give our opinion that these are worth preserving. Trying to get money for blender pumps may be the best next move to continue to build ethanol.”

Minnesota grower leaders had face-to-face meetings with Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Representatives Collin Peterson and Tim Walz, and met with agriculture liaisons and legislative aides in the offices of the other members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation.

“We especially enjoyed the face time with the senators and representatives themselves–we felt we could really connect and deliver the message for our 6,000 members back home,” said Schwarz. “Tim Walz in particular is so positive all the time, and he’s so in tune with Minnesota’s farmers that he makes all of our talking points for us. There are still some people optimistic that our country and our system will work. It’s a messy system, but ultimately things will work out. Peterson comes at it from another angle. He pulls no punches and gives his frank assessment. That’s a valuable perspective, too. We come away from these meetings with a better sense of where things are headed.”

In addition to Walz’s optimistic message, the grower leaders were happy to hear the presentation of famed NASCAR racer Kenny Wallace at the NCGA reception for Congress members.

“Kenny gave a real “hoorah” speech,” Schwarz said. He reassured everyone that E15, which is being used in NASCAR, is an excellent fuel. There has not been a single engine problem related to using E15 in the national circuit races.”



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