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April 18, 2011 at 3:55 pm Leave a comment

5 Key Points to take to the Hill

Wondering what our young ag leaders will be taking to the hill tomorrow?  Here’s their message:

The messages that are presented represent the efforts of a growing set of voices that are committed to America having agriculture policy that enhances our food supply.  We seek to have available and safe food and fiber systems that are sustainable over the years.  The messages represent the combined voices of individuals currently or in pursuit of or in the early stages of their agricultural career.  These statements represent our message concerning what must be components of agricultural policy designed to enhance the success of the next generation of agriculture.

Key Points:

1)      Protect Funding for Agricultural Education, land grant universities & cooperative extensions

  • Educational programs have been cut in their funding.  Education is critical to learning so we can be viable producers.  We want to maximize our efficiencies.  Land grant universities provide research that serves as an economic engine.  Likewise, we assist young people throughout our states as they grow in their pursuit of agriculture.

2)      Preserving farmland through estate planning and farm ownership transition

  • The importance of this issue to the next generation is seen in the fact that the next generation must have the capital and/or the resource base to enter the field. Estate tax and the concerns facing the increasing amount of tax to pay for the transferring of land from generation to generation.

3)      Ag literacy combining agricultural communications leadership development and lifelong education for everyone

  • Fund educational programs designed to help consumers and individuals outside of the normal agriculture occupations to understand the source of the nation’s food and fiber.  Funding for programs such as extension and career-tech education.  Have Congressional leaders become greater advocates for the agricultural industry.

4)      Ensuring environmental standards are attainable and realistic

  • Support methods of developing standards designed to environmental stewardship that are realistically applicable and enhance the producers’ ability to maintain a successful operation.  Have ground-experts with real world experience drafting and providing input into the regulations.   Science and research-based ideas should be the basis of policy.  Apply local and state level of data to environmental policy implementation at the most local level possible.

5)      Affordable resources (like credit and capital access) and product marketing programs are available to assist the next generation in both start-up and maintenance of the agricultural business.  Available access to a ready supply of credit for new and young farmers is needed.

  • Maintain programmatic activity designed to assist the entry level producer in attaining capital for start-up and expansion.  Keep the financial tools current so that the programs apply to the generations that are entering agriculture today.

April 11, 2011 at 11:36 pm Leave a comment

Environmental Ag Leader Award Winner Presentation

Peter Juergans of Branch Creek Farm in Iowa, winner of the first EnvAgLeaders award, says he was recently talking to his father who said they were asking the same questions when he was a young farmer that we do today: how are we going to feed all these people over the next 40 years? The baby boomers rose to the challenge. Now it’s our turn.

Here’s the presentation:

April 11, 2011 at 4:13 pm Leave a comment

Ag Communication Award Winners Presentation

After spending the morning taking the voice of agvocacy to their legislators, Ag Communication Award Winners Kathryn Shallenberger and Jami Willard offered a few tips on how to approach our nation’s leaders with our ag message:

Effective Communication with Legislators

Communication 101:

–          Confidence

–          Clear

–          Concise

Avoid

–          Uh, um, like, so, you know

Think BEFORE you speak or respond

Preparation

–          Be well research and well-rehearsed.  Have a game plan and know your issues

–          Find good data; know your sources and trust your findings.

–          Know who you’re talking to; do research on the legislator

–          Establish yourself as an “expert”

–          Use anecdotes

–          Hold them accountable

–          Stay on topic

–          Be prepared to answer questions

–          Be a good listener

–          Be responsive and thought provoking

Before you leave/follow-up

–          Leave a concise (no more than one page) overview of your issue and position with the official

–          Provide them with all your contact info and make the offer to serve as a resource

–          Do so within a few days via email

–          Do so within 2 weeks via mail

Etiquette:  The Do’s and Do Not’s

–          Respect staff: they are most likely the legislator’s chief adviser on the issue most important to you, and will be the last person the speak with before making a final decision on your request

–          Always be polite; go out of your way to introduce yourself and develop a personal relationship, this includes other staff members.

Don’t forget

–          Be a source of information

–          Keep in contact/stay engaged

–          Engage other ag leaders

–          Invite them for farm tour

April 11, 2011 at 4:06 pm Leave a comment

Mid-morning with Michael Scuse

Again, I’ll put these notes into paragraphs later, but for now… here are the ones from the mid-morning session:

Michael Scuse, Acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, USDA

“The farm service agency deals with all of the programs that are contained in the farm bill, which go out ot help our producers directly.   From the disaster programs as well as your traditional programs, and we have 2241 county offices throughout the united states.   I have 20,300 staff around the world.  The farm service agency – one arm of FSA that people arent’ that familiar with is our lending side.”  Last year we loaned out 5.2 billion to 36000? farms.  Also partnership with banks through our guaranteed lending programs.  Farm Credit is one of our largest partners in the guaranteed lending program.  14 of top 20 banks that participate are farm credit banks.

We’re converting to corn into ethanol – using about 4 billion bushels of corn now for ethanol production.

We do need to have more energy independence than we currently have.  Work being done with algea, sweet potatoes, alternative crops, etc., to make ethanol.

Risk management agency – crop insurance program – last year we insured 78 billion worth of crops on 258,000,000 acres.  That number will go up considerably over the next year b/c of the dollar amount our commodities are currently work.  Anticipating a huge increase in insurable crops for this current year.  Risk management agency administrates their crop insurance program, but much is done through private companies throughout the US.  Just concluded the negotiation of the standard reassurance agreement, which is the agreement those companies work under.  We were able to save $6 billion as we go through the next 10 years.  $4 billion of that was put into deficit reduction.   $2 billion went back into additional programs for the risk management agency.  Some of that money also went into FSA to offset program costs.

Looking at expanding the risk management agency portfolio – believe one of the most important management tools and the best tool we have right now to mitigate risk.  If you look at the next farm bill going forward, we believe crop insurance will play an even bigger role because we don’t have the type of money going into the farm bill as we have in the past.  We need to be able to insure more crops, so we have a board constantly looking to provide new products out there to help farmers & ranchers.  Ex:  sweet potato industry wanted a pilot program in Louisiana, and felt this program would help them get the acreage for the program.  Ex:  sesame seed growers came and wanted a program to insure the sesame seed growers.  If we did this program, sesame seed acreage would go from under  50,000 to over 100,000 acres.

 

“The foreign ag service is very interesting to me, because I am a farmer.  We need to make sure we have markets for everything we grow.”

Double exports by 2014, major undertaking.

As we build trade, if you break down those barriers, all ag sectors in all countries will benefit.  For example, NAFTA, some people are opposed to the NAFTA treaty.  When we signed that treaty, we were doing 10 billion worth of trade.  Today we’re doing 31 billion.  All three countries have expanded their trade.

We’re projecting $135.5 billion in ag trade this year.  That’s what we’re going to export.  That’s $20 billion more than the last record in 2008.  So we’re not just going to break that record; we’re going to shatter that record.  It’s not just based on commodity prices.  It’s also based on volume.

We have 75 offices around the world that deal with trade in 156 countries.  These offices give us very important information.  Weather? What are the cropping conditions?  What are the marketing conditions?  If we have a product in ports at those countries that for some reason have a hold on them and can’t get in, these offices work with those officials to get those products in the country.  When there are barriers put up for our agricultural products, they make us aware of those barriers and the issues around those barriers, so hopefully we can work with those governments to overcome those barriers.

By 2050, we’re going to need to increase food production throughout the world by 70 percent.  Today, there will be almost 1 billion people who go to bed hungry.  Another 1 billion people will go to bed tonight without the proper nourishment.  One-third of the population of the world has a problem pertaining to food.

The average age for American farmers is 57, and that age keeps creeping up.  We need to do something to bring that number down.  We loaned out over 2 billion dollars last year to young producers.  At the risk management agency, we just came out with a good performance discounts.  We also found a way to get that money to young producers and ranchers.  There’s more than can be done.  We need to work with Congress to find a way to transfer from one generation to the next generation.  How do you get that equity from a generation that wants to retire to a generation that’s just starting?

April 11, 2011 at 12:59 pm Leave a comment

Morning Session with Chuck Conner – Ag’s Promise

I’ll flesh this out a little later, but here are the notes from this morning’s session with Chuck Conner:

Chuck Conner, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

Run Down of Election Results – What we know

  • GOP gained 62 seats in the House taking control – largest gain since 1938
  • Republicans captured 6 seats in Senate, falling short of control
  • Over half of the Democrats on the House Ag Committee lost their races
  • Seniority was no advantage – chairman Lincoln lost the Senate race, Congressman Pomeroy lost in House

“Ag Committee Changes, we have a real friend, chairman of the ag committee, Frank Lucas from Oklahoma is a great friend of agriculture.”

“One of the things we hope congress does, and I think you’ll hear about this when you go up on the hill, is trade agreements…. At the end of the day, the challenge for agriculture is 9 billion.  9 billion people on this planet that we’ll need to feed.”

When will Trade Agreements move forward?

25 percent of us farm cash receipts from exports

Looking ahead – the 2012 farm bill

  • Progress in congress slowed from last year, thorugh senate may begin work b the end of 2011
  • Overriding issue will be the effect that deficit reduction ill have on the farm bill & farm programs.

Where the federal budget goes:

  • Social security: 730 billion
  • Defense:  730 billion
  • Medicare: 570 billion
  • Medicaid: 270 billion
  • Debt total: 380 billion
  • 2.7 billion
  • Total fy 2011 budget: 2.8 trillion
  • Projected deficit: 1.5 – 1.6 trillion

“When you look at that 3.8 trillion, a lot of people almost immediately associate a big chunk of that money with agriculture and what agriculture gets through the farm bill.  Agriculture is a 0.5% of the budget.  That’s total USDA spending.”

Why tell the story of agriculture?

“We’ve got so many people out there talking trying to speak on behalf of American agriculture… Washington Post cartoon, PETA, HSUS… It’s outlandish the stories that are being told.  30 years ago, agriculture was for the most part left alone.  Maybe we didn’t tell our story, but no one was telling it for us, nothing gained, nothing lost.  That’s not the case now.  There are a lot of people out there telling an agriculture story, but that story is a lie.  So we’d better tell it, or Congress will listen to those who are putting it out there.  You’re part of that [true] message and that enthusiasm for America agriculture. “

“The number people we’re going to have to feed on this planet will create opportunities within agriculture.”

Q.  75% for nutrition – who’s taking it?

A.  Food stamps are probably 90% of that.  There’s 3 programs – food stamps, child nutrition programs, known as the school lunch program, and the women, infants, and children program.

GS.  Are those programs your friend or are they your enemy?  I think the natural inclination is to draw a line in the stand between those 2 programs.  What you saw on the chart was a percentage of the pie.  If someone said you could have 0.2% of all the petroleum in America or 100% in your state, which would you choose?  You’d want to know which one is bigger… What you really want to do is increase the overall size of the farm bill.  If that percentage goes up, there’s more resources.  Be careful before determining if that nutrition program is your friend or not your friend, because your concern is actually how to keep the American agriculture program over time.

CC.  The programs were created in the 60s not to help hungry people, but to help farmers.  That can change over time, but at their roots, they’re farm programs.

TB.  Farm to school pilot programs, opps for producers to get a certain amount of their product directly into child nutrition programs.  If that’s done right and policy is right, maybe we can get back to the origins of that program.

CC.  That program implies that a item that has been marketed through a co-op is somehow inferior to the product that comes directly from the program.  There’s no scientific proof of that statement at all. It’s a marketing system that my co-ops can’t stand.  I gotta represent my guys.

Q.  Farmer from corn states on the news driving a new 4 wheel drive tractor and hwo great the economy up.  His corn products were up 57 percent. Life was good.  As that farmer failed to rely or it got edited, didn’t talk about the expense on his side going up & looked like am farmer was going to make a big windfall next year.  How do we go to the hill tomorrow & relate to him, yeah life might be getting better, but so are our expenses?  And how does he relate that to the committee?

CC.  Good news & bad news.  Frank Lucas will nod his head.  He gets it.  He understands that.  The problem he’s got is he has 23 new members on the ag committee.  He’ll probably challenge you to help him & go tell those goes because they need to hear it from someone else.  So what do you do?  You tell your story.

Q.  Broader spectrum:  budget debate.  Wasn’t about ag programs, was about a number on a piece of paper.  It was about a deficit.  This political climate seems to have lost all reference to where this money goes.  How do we bring them back and say this money is used for this farm program?

A.  Frank would probably tell you, and I agree with him, Frank is coming under criticism for some pretty big numbers on the table for ag.  At the end of the day, Frank is more concerned with who determines that number is met and how it is met rather than how.

April 11, 2011 at 10:02 am Leave a comment

Farm Photo Friday!

Thanks to Pat Roets & Shannon Jones for today’s photos!

From Pat, who you can also find on Twitter at @Patrts, took these photos in Merrill, Wisconsin:



These photos came from Shannon Jones of Broadfork Farm.  You can connect with Broadfork Farm on Facebook as well.

April 8, 2011 at 1:10 pm Leave a comment

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