Morning Session with Chuck Conner – Ag’s Promise

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

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.


Entry filed under: Agriculture's Promise 2011.

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