The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


Growers support a farm bill in 2012, unlikely to agree on commodity title


NASHVILLE — The corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum groups whose members are attending the Commodity Classic meeting here issued a joint statement today that they support passage of a farm bill in 2012, but they did not note any agreement on the commodity title of the bill.

“We urge Congress to pass a new farm bill this year to provide the level of certainty in America that a short-term extension cannot,” the statement said.

“The nation is currently facing record high federal deficits and this requires difficult decisions,” the groups said. “We stand ready to do our part to develop more efficient farm policy that will be responsive to taxpayers and effective in helping farms remain viable and productive.”

The statement was signed by the National Corn Growers Association, the American Soybean Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers and the National Sorghum Producers.

The corn and soybean associations held news conferences today calling for passage of the farm bill proposals they have previously made.

Those groups and the wheat growers and sorghum producers will hold policy sessions this week at which they are expected to refine their policies.

One lobbyist told The Hagstrom Report that farm groups are unwilling to make compromises until they have had a chance to state their priorities to the Senate Agriculture Committee at a March 14 hearing on risk management and the commodity title.

While all the groups support a strong crop insurance program, they differ on the commodity title. Sorghum and rice growers have proposed an increase in target prices, but other groups are worried that farmers might follow the program rather than market signals.

Garry Niemeyer
Garry Niemeyer
National Corn Growers President Garry Niemeyer, an Illinois farmer, said his group wants a program that protects farmers from the effect of multiple years of reduced yields and prices, but “don't want to go back to farming for the government.”

American Soybean Association President Steve Wellman, a Nebraska grower, said that under his group’s revenue-based program, payments would be “commodity-specific, and based on the difference between historical and current-year revenue at the farm level.”

“While based on current-year production, this approach will have less of an impact on planting decisions and production than a fixed target price program, since any payments would be based on actual revenue losses rather than a decline in prices from fixed support levels,” Wellman said.

Steve Wellman

Steve Wellman
“ASA recognizes a revenue based program may not be appropriate for all commodities.,” Wellman said. “We are open to supporting an alternative program, provided it does not interfere with the ability of producers to respond to the market or distort planting decisions. Additionally, programs should be in compliance with the United States’ existing WTO commitments."

Corn and soybean leaders both said they would push to maintain support for biofuels.

Niemeyer said that the corn growers “are going to defend the Renewable Fuel Standard at all costs.”

He also noted that the corn growers had been willing to give up direct payments and went along with the loss of the ethanol tax credit and protective tariff, but will not agree to an elimination of the RFS as some meat producers and members of Congress have proposed.

Alan Kemper

Alan Kemper
ASA Chairman Alan Kemper, an Indiana producer, said that the biodiesel industry produced a record 1.1 billion gallons in 2011, with soybean oil as the predominant feedstock, easily eclipsing thee RFS volume requirement of 800 million gallons.

Noting that the Environmental Protection Agency has set a new mark of 1 billion gallons for 2012 and has proposed a 1.28 billion-gallon volume requirement for 2013, Kemper said soybean growers are urging the White House to approve the EPA proposal.

“Biodiesel is the only advanced biofuel that is produced on a commercial scale across the U.S.,” Kemper said. “It creates jobs, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and bolsters our energy security.”

Kemper also noted that the biodiesel tax credit expired on December 31 and said its retroactive extension is a top priority for ASA.

Niemeyer and ASA First Vice President Danny Murphy, a Mississippi producer, both called on Congress to provide money for improvements to the shipping infrastructure on the Mississippi River, but Niemeyer acknowledged that “nobody wants to talk to us” about that in the current budget climate.

Almost 5,800 farmers and others in agriculture have registered for the Commodity Classic this year, a record attendance.