By Kathy Reding Bergren
[Editor’s note: Brooke S. Appleton, NCGA’s vice president of public policy, is on maternity leave, and this month’s issue of Ears in Washington has been written by a guest columnist.]
As the new Congress picks up the pace, NCGA staff are working on a number of issues in Washington, including the Mexican ban on genetically modified corn, reauthorization of the Farm Bill and biofuels policy, including reintroduction of The Next Generation Fuels Act.
Here are some highlights of our work so far:
Fighting Mexico’s GM Corn Ban. Mexican officials have issued a decree that would ban imports of biotech corn. That’s problematic for U.S. corn growers, as the majority of corn grown in the U.S. is biotech corn, and Mexico is one of our largest customers. Originally the ban was to take effect in early 2024, a little less than a year from now. But Mexican officials recently announced that biotech corn for human consumption would be banned immediately, while the ban on biotech corn used in animal feed would be postponed until a substitute is found.
We continue working closely with allies on Capitol Hill and in the administration to hold Mexico accountable for commitments made under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). USMCA is a rules-based and science-based agreement, and this issue provides our trade officials with an opportunity to stand up for this trade pact. We have also taken to the media and called on the Biden administration to initiate a dispute settlement under USMCA. Once that formal process is started, the issue could be resolved in six to nine months. With regular ongoing discussions among all parties, stay tuned for further new developments.
Supporting Reauthorization of the Farm Bill. This important legislation, which governs many of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s agricultural and food programs, is up for renewal this year, providing policymakers with an opportunity to strengthen existing programs. NCGA, state corn associations and our farmer members are working closely with policymakers to help them understand the importance of the farm bill and ensure the bill addresses the needs of corn growers.
NCGA’s principles for the 2023 farm bill include protecting crop insurance, bolstering U.S. international market development efforts, strengthening the producer safety net, supporting voluntary conservation programs and championing initiatives important to rural America. Corn growers are participating in important congressional stakeholder meetings, collaborating with broad agriculture coalitions and working closely with members on the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to secure a strong farm bill this year. With the process moving forward, and twists and turns expected along the way, NCGA will continue to keep you informed and provide opportunities to weigh in.
Next Generation Fuels Act Reintroduction. As high fuel prices and energy security concerns persist, along with a focus on cutting emissions, NCGA continues to advance ethanol as an energy, climate and economic solution. To that end, we are working with bipartisan members of the House and Senate on reintroduction of The Next Generation Fuels Act for this Congress. This legislation would clean up our nation’s fuel supply and transition new vehicles to use low carbon, high octane fuels, creating an important pathway for higher ethanol blends. This transition to updated fuels and vehicles would cut fuel costs, reduce emissions, and increase fuel efficiency. This transition would also support agriculture’s contribution toward decarbonizing transportation.
Working on corn farmers’ behalf requires great leadership. NCGA staff were thrilled to learn in late February that one of our own, Neil Caskey, was chosen by the Corn Board as NCGA’s new CEO. Neil has decades of experience advocating on behalf of farmers, and we’re excited about new ideas he has for NCGA.
We will keep up the good fight on these and many other issues, and at times, we will call on you to take action. To that end, please make sure you are signed up for NCGA’s action alerts by texting COB to 52886.
Here’s to a productive year ahead!
Bergren is director of public policy and renewable fuels at the National Corn Growers Association.