Corn and soybean farmers are focused on getting in the field. For leaders of national commodity groups, though, export issues, agriculture's image, renewable fuel incentives and climate-change issues are taking center stage.
National Corn Growers Association. Rick Tolman, CEO of the National Corn Growers Association, says the organization has several legislative issues it is focusing on this year. One big goal is to get appropriations to update the locks and dams on the Mississippi River.
"We got approval in 2007, so now it is time to get the money allocated so we can start building those.”
Another area Tolman hopes to improve this year is the public perception of agriculture.
"I think now the biggest challenge is the misinformation that is out there on agriculture in general,” he says. This trend, he adds, is being driven by a group of ideological people who want to change agriculture.
"We are an industry that is very innovative and has a tremendous track record and story,” Tolman says. "We do a great job of providing a safe, reliable product. That story needs to be better recognized by our consumers.”
American Soybean Association. Steve Censky, American Soybean Association CEO, says this year his group will
focus on extending the biodiesel tax incentive and tackling climate-change issues.
"We were very disappointed at the end of last year when the Senate was devoting their time to all health care, all the time, and not moving any other legislation,” he says. "The fact that the biodiesel tax incentive has not been extended has been very negative for the biodiesel industry.”
An area of hope for soybean farmers is continued strength in exports.
"We have had our largest export year ever,” Censky says. "We have exported a record amount to the world.”
One of the areas his group hopes to target for even more export growth is China.
"China is the 900-lb. gorilla in the export marketplace,” Censky says. This year, China is expected to receive 54% of total worldwide exports.
"The Chinese people continue to want to eat meat, include vegetable oil in their diets and they have more income to spend on their food—that's all good news for soybean farmers,” he says.
You can e-mail Sara Schafer at firstname.lastname@example.org