Commodity Groups Outline Policy Priorities

List of issues is familiar chorus for 2006 and beyond. Groups also celebrate policy successes. Willie Vogt

Published on: Mar 3, 2006

Leaders for the American Soybean Association and the National Corn Growers Association have some significant policy wins to celebrate after 2005. Leaders of both groups got together to discuss policy actions at the 2006 Commodity Classic in Anaheim, Calif.

The push for renewable fuels - which has taken on an even greater importance after President Bush's State of the Union Address - was promoted by the presidents of both groups. However, each turned their attention to the next challenges facing the industry.

Bob Metz, president, ASA, notes that ongoing work with the World Trade Organization remains a focus for the group. The challenge ahead is the next farm bill. "First we need a safety net from the farm bill," he says. "It would be a safety net that we would not use every year."

He adds that the group opposes any cuts to the crop insurance program and that soybean rust needs to be part of the farm bill. "USDA needs to know we need those sentinel plots," he says. "That's how Brazil got a handle on ways to treat rust."

Perhaps a hot area the group supports, with the impending visit Ag Secretary Mike Johanns at today's General Session, is the Water Resources Development Act. After the Ag Outlook Conference Johanns made comments that lead many groups to think he's not in support of the bill - a measure that has already cleared the U.S. House and cleared a key Senate subcommittee.

When Gerald Tumbleson, president, NCGA, was asked if his group was going to take the Secretary to task on his stand on the issue, the normally talkative Minnesota grower responded simply: "Yes."

Both groups see the need for the bill, which would improve the aging lock and dam system. Metz notes that growers in South Dakota - who perceive themselves far from the river system - got a taste of how that transportation tool can impact prices. "When Katrina hit we saw basis widen to as much as 80 cents in our area," he says.

Johanns will meet with the commodity group leaders ahead of the general session today. As on told Farm Progress: "It's going to be an interesting discussion." There is talk that Johanns will clarify his position on the issue during his talk at the Classic.

The farm bill, which is currently under budget pressure, remains a focus for both groups. Tumbleson notes that the U.S. economy is in transition from a hydrocarbon society to a carbohydrate - or plant-based - sociey. That will require research support and a safety net during this change.

Metz adds that talk of changing the farm bill while in the middle of a World Trade Organization negotiation doesn't make sense.

Moving ahead the groups will continue to monitor WTO progress as well as work done on renewable energy.

The Commodity Classic runs through Saturday at the Anaheim Convention Center.