Members of Congress Head Home to Hear from Constituents During August Recess
By Brooke S. Appleton
I still remember arriving in Washington, D.C., as a young congressional intern and quickly figuring out my favorite and not so favorite aspects of the city. The hot, sticky summers here were one of my least favorite parts of Washington. But the August recess, which originated because of the intense summer heat, was golden to me, as the city became quieter and staffers could go on much-needed vacations or, in my case, go home to see family and friends.
So, I’m thankful that August recess has arrived once again in the nation’s capital. And members of Congress are making the time-honored trip home this month to meet and talk with their constituents. This is an ideal time for our members to connect with their elected officials and raise issues that are important to corn growers.
The issue most top of mind right now is the farm bill, which is up for reauthorization this year. The National Corn Growers Association has launched a call-to-action that allows you to easily share your thoughts with members of Congress from the ease of your own home with only a few clicks. As part of this campaign, we are sharing videos featuring farmers talking about our top priorities for the farm bill.
As a farmer from Kansas says in one of the videos, it is all about “crop insurance, crop insurance, crop insurance.” As he explains, crop insurance not only provides protection for farmers during droughts, but it is also an important source of aid when crops are damaged by other adverse weather events, such as strong winds and hailstorms. He notes that crop insurance looks good to creditors as farmers secure operating loans and is crucial to protecting rural and small-town economies.
The videos also feature stories touching on NCGA’s other farm bill priorities: bolstering international development, strengthening the producer safety net and supporting voluntary conservation programs. You can view these videos on our website.
We need you and, indeed, all our members, to amplify the sentiments from these stories by sharing your own narrative with your U.S. representative and senators. You can do this very easily by clicking here. We also encourage you to share the videos and the link to the call-to-action on your social media platforms. Please use the hashtag #cornaction.
During this August recess, your members of Congress will likely be hosting town hall meetings with constituents this month. Please pay attention to local news outlets, which will most likely announce the date, time and place of these meetings. If you are available to do so, please attend one and politely bring up our farm bill priorities and ask your policymakers what their positions are. When members of Congress hear that the farm bill is a priority to constituents, it helps our team make the case for our priorities when we meet with members and their staff on Capitol Hill.
I know at the end of the day we are going to walk away with a farm bill that supports the needs of farmers. And we will look at August as a crucial month in our advocacy efforts.
Here’s to August recess. Here’s to the farm bill. Here’s to a cooler season ahead!
Appleton is vice president of public policy at the National Corn Growers Association.
History, Current Challenges, Highlight Need for a Robust Farm Bill
By Brooke S. Appleton
Imagine for a moment that it’s 1933, and you’re in a quaint, white farmhouse somewhere in the middle of America. Fascism is on the rise and the country is heading for a second world war while still reeling from the previous one. When you turn on the radio, through the static you hear stories of businessmen in New York facing financial ruin from the Great Depression.
Feeling the pressure to act, Congress begins working on ways to address these monumental problems, culminating in passage of the first farm bill, called the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, which is signed into law by Pres. Franklin Roosevelt as part of the New Deal. While the New Deal is not without its controversies, it was a critical piece of legislation that put protections in place for farmers.
Looking back in time is a useful exercise as we approach this year’s reauthorization of the farm bill, some nine decades after its first passage. Farmers still face many serious challenges, not least of which are adverse weather conditions, like this summer’s drought, exacerbated by a changing climate.
Thankfully, if the droughts persist, or other extreme weather patterns emerge, there are programs in the farm bill like crop insurance that provide protections for farmers. But we can’t take these programs for granted.
Our latest weather challenges, coupled with memories from the past, remind us of the need to do everything we can to ensure a robust farm bill, protective of farmers, is signed into law this year.
NCGA is working hard to make sure members of Congress understand the value of the farm bill for farmers, rural communities and indeed the entire country. After all, our farmers are feeding and fueling America.
Our grower leaders have testified before the Agriculture Committees, we have joined like-minded organizations in submitting priorities and budget requests to Congress, and our staff are working diligently to educate key officials and their staff about the impacts of this legislation.
Corn growers are gathering this month in Washington, D.C., for Corn Congress. During our meetings, we will travel to Capitol Hill to talk about the need for a comprehensive farm bill that embraces the priorities of farmers. These national priorities include:
Protecting crop insurance. Federal crop insurance provides market-oriented risk management tools for growers to respond to yield and revenue losses from natural disasters. NCGA supports increasing the affordability of crop insurance for producers and opposes efforts to either restrict producer access to crop insurance products or impose harmful program cuts.
Bolstering International Market Development. Opening long-term commercial markets for commodities is key for farmers. We want to do everything possible to develop international markets for corn and corn products.
Strengthening the producer safety net. Corn growers support improvements to strengthen the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage commodity programs. These programs provide farmers with a safety net when they face significant drops in crop prices or revenues.
Supporting conservation practices. Corn growers are committed to conservation practices. USDA conservation programming plays an important role in helping advance the adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices.
To be successful, commodity groups cannot go this alone. NCGA continues to work through multiple coalitions to protect crop insurance, bolster the trade promotion programs, work through the policy challenges of addressing climate change through voluntary and locally led initiatives and to make sure the Agriculture Committees have the resources necessary to craft a meaningful farm bill.
Our work will continue until the farm bill is passed and signed into law. We hope you will follow our efforts by texting COB to 52886.
We are no longer in that farmhouse in 1930s rural America. We are now living in an America of the 21st century. We have new challenges related to trade, technology and other matters. Still, farming today, like that of generations past, is shaped and at times stunted by adverse weather conditions.
Whether it’s crop prices, a Dust Bowl, drought or smoke drifting in from Canada, as the farm bill comes up for reauthorization, we are reminded that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Appleton is vice president of public policy at the National Corn Growers Association.
CORN: AMERICA’S CROP
Corn is the most abundant crop produced in the United States.
In 2022, U.S. corn farmersplanted 88.6 million acres of corn, producing over 13.7 billion bushels with an estimated value of $90.6 billion.
The USDA March Prospective Planting Report indicates farmers intend to plant92 million acres of corn in 2023.
Each year, corn growers make planting decisions based on markets, growing conditions, andrisk calculations. Growers know firsthand the high-risk nature of the business of agriculture, asthey face challenges with natural disasters and unexpected market volatility and disruptions. The farm bill plays a critical role in helping growers navigate risks outside of their control.
Corn growers are invested in developing forward-looking, market-orientated farm policies. NCGA’s farm bill recommendations seek to make existing USDA programs more effective, efficient, and responsive through strategic investments and policy enhancements that will protect and bolster America’s Crop.
PROTECT CROP INSURANCE
Federal crop insurance has a proven track record of helping producers quickly respond to natural disasters. In 2022, corn farmers insured $66.5 billion in liabilities through the purchase of over 384,000 policies nationwide.
As the most important program and title of the farm bill for corn growers, crop insurance must be protected and strengthened as the cornerstone of the federal safety net.
Increase the affordability of crop insurance for producers.
Oppose efforts to cut crop insurance programs or restrict producer accessibility to risk management tools.
BOLSTER MARKET DEVELOPMENT
Dynamic USDA trade programs boost U.S. agricultural exports, are vital to the prosperity of U.S. agriculture and related business, and provide a return of $24.50 for each dollar invested.
The Market Access Program (MAP) helps producers, trade groups, private companies, and other organizations finance promotional activities for agricultural products from the United States.
Foreign Market Development (FMD) is a joint government and agri-industry effort to develop markets by acquainting potential foreign customers with U.S. farm products.
Double funding for MAP and FMD by increasing MAP funding from $200 million to$400 million annually and the FMD program funding from $34.5 million to $69 million annually.
STRENGHTHEN THE SAFETY NET
Key risk management tools and USDA programs continue to be stress tested by natural disasters, economic challenges, and black swan events. Corn growers support improvements to the farm safety net through strengthening the commodity programs Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC). These programs provide farmers with a safety net when they face significant drops in crop prices or revenues.
Increase the ARC County maximum payment rate above 10%.
Increase the ARC County coverage level above 86%.
Strengthen the PLC effective reference price
Oppose lowering payment limits and adjusted gross income limits below current levels.
SUPPORT VOLUNTARY CONSERVATION PROGRAMS
U.S. corn growers are committed to implementing successful conservation practices on their farms. USDA conservation programming plays an important role in advancing the adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices, which help corn growers continue to be good stewards of the land.
Create a USDA initiative to use conservation programming to reduce development of weed resistance to protect viability of conservation tillage and cover cropping practices.
Create a USDA Natural Research Conservation Service (NRCS) grant program to cover total costs of retaining a full-time coordinator for farmer-led collaborative watershed projects to reduce nutrient losses.
Expand and strengthen the NRCS Interim Conservation Practice Standards initiative to speed up the development and adoption of innovative conservation practices.
Reflecting on What It Takes to Successfully Parent and Lobby
I am happy to be back writing Ears in Washington after spending the last several months away on maternity leave. While I’ve missed the office, the team and policy work, I was thankful to have the time at home with our newest son Henry and his big brother Daniel.
But over the last several months I had a lot of time to reflect on many things, and I realized I can use some of the same skills I have developed as an advocate to navigate the challenges that come with parenting. In fact, there are a lot of similarities between my two professions: mothering and lobbying.
Not just Me, We
In both cases, success depends on building wide support and sometimes joining forces with unlikely allies. Former Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-Neb.), speaking last summer at Corn Congress, gave some great advice on the advocacy front:
“You’ve got to build relationships with people who care about food stamps,” she said. “You’ve got to build relationships with people who care about conservation. You can’t expect to basically get a farm bill by just being who you are in production agriculture.”
Her advice is true not just for the farm bill but for all policy issues. NCGA participates in several coalitions to help advance our policy work, from farm bill reauthorization to ethanol to transportation. We have learned, as many have, that the larger the group speaking in support of an issue the more successful we can be. Similarly, Mom and Dads need a wide circle of support at home.
When it comes to raising kids or advancing public policy, it really is WE, not just ME.
Another key to success in lobbying and parenting is planning and strategizing. Just as we work to ensure that our children’s needs don’t all fall on one parent, we also need to make sure the responsibilities of telling our story don’t fall on the shoulders of a handful of corn growers.
As we work to advance legislation on behalf of corn growers, we are constantly contemplating how we need to communicate about an issue or which farmer constituent voice we need to send in to talk with a particular policymaker to make them want to champion our priorities.
We also must carefully calibrate our advocacy efforts, at times going quiet on an issue so as not to upset a victory that is under way. (Just as a parent would calmly and quietly leave a room so as not to upset a sleeping child.) Like parenting, this all requires strategy and advanced thought.
Relationships Are Important
The primary currency in Washington is relationships. Getting to know stakeholders is crucially important to success on Capitol Hill. I talked in one of my previous columns about how endangered bipartisan relationships have become among members of Congress as policymakers increasingly spend more time at home instead of here in Washington with their colleagues. But relationships are still critical to success—no different than bonding with your children, it’s time well spent. Policymakers need to see me and the DC team as people who represent the nation’s corn growers, the very people toiling to feed and fuel America and, indeed, the world. NCGA has built incredible relationships with congressional members and their staff on both sides of the aisle over the years, and we work to maintain those relationships every day.
My two life’s passions, parenting and lobbying, are both rewarding work. And I really don’t know which one teaches me more. But I know they both make my life meaningful and enjoyable, and I look forward to a life filled with surprises, victories and challenges in both arenas!
Appleton is vice president of public policy at the National Corn Growers Association.
Brenda Elmer, Executive Director Andrew Mauch, ND President 701.866.2597
701.566.9325 office Rob Hanson, ND Board Member 701.320.8748
218.790.0555 cell Bryan Goodman NCGA Communications 202.997.1606
Fargo, North Dakota –
The U.S. Trade Representative announced today that it is filing a dispute settlement under the U.S.- Mexico-CanadaAgreement in response to the steps Mexico has taken to ban biotech corn for human consumption.
The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), which along with North Dakota Corn Growers Association and otheraffiliated state associations, has been leading calls for the Biden administration to act, praised the development.
“Mexico’s actions, which are not based on sound science, have threatened the financial wellbeing of corn growers and ournation’s rural communities,” said NCGA President Tom Haag, a grower leader from nearby Minnesota. “We are deeplyappreciative of Ambassador Katherine Tai and USTR for moving this process forward and thankful for the efforts of Secretary Tom Vilsack and members of Congress for standing up for farmers in such a meaningful way.”
Under USMCA, once a dispute settlement is filed, a group of objective experts will be empaneled to hear the case and makefinal determinations based on the commitments both parties signed as part of the free trade agreement.
The dispute stems from a 2020 decree by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador that sought to ban imports of biotech corn beginning in January 2024. Mexico issued a revised decree in February of this year that banned biotech corn for human consumption effective immediately and left the door open for a future ban on biotech corn for feed.
Mexico is a top market for corn, the number one agricultural export from the U.S., which has led to strong concerns over how the ban would impact U.S. farmers, rural economies and food security for the people of Mexico.
Given the high stakes, NCGA and corn grower leaders across the country began sounding the alarm last fall and have been calling on the Biden administration to initiate a dispute settlement under USMCA.
North Dakota Corn Growers Association President Andrew Mauch, who farms with his family near Mooreton, ND said that corn grower leaders have been a constant, rational and persistent voice for this action to occur. “This is a first, but critical first step in effectively making the case that Mexico’s actions are not based on sound science and that there already have been numerous studies proving the safety of GMO corn for food and feed use,” Mauch said.
North Dakota Corn Growers Association board member, past president and current U.S. Grains Council Western Hemisphere Advisory Team member Rob Hanson echoed the sentiment. “GMO corn, which makes up more than 90 percent of U.S. production, is a safe and cost-effective resource to help meet Mexico’s growing demands,” said Hanson who farms with his family near Wimbledon, ND. Mexico’s own Health Department earlier this year reported nearly 44 percent of Mexicans live below the poverty line and 12 percent suffer from malnutrition.
“Aside from the serious matter of violating an international trade agreement, there are numerous problems with Mexico’s demands,” said Hanson. “Growers yields would diminish significantly with the shift to conventional corn and the infrastructure for local markets for GMO corn are severely lacking.” Said Hanson.
Mauch added, “We are thankful that our congressional delegation has been prompting this filing as was the Secretary (of Ag) Vilsack, and many others.”
The NDCGA is the farmer-led, grass roots membership organization focusing on public policy impacting North Dakota corn producers. Representing the 13,000 corn growers across the state, its board of directors consists of 14 growers from seven districts, three at-large directors and two industry representatives. Growers can become a member today at https://www.ndcorngrowers.org/
Spring is proving to be a busy me between corn planting and grower leaders taking full advantage of every opportunity to talk about our priorities for the farm bill.
The farm bill, which governs many of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s agricultural and food programs, is set to expire at the end of September 2023, providing policymakers with an opportunity to review and update existing programs.
NCGA, corn state associations and grower members are working closely with policymakers to ensure the bill addresses the current and future needs of corn growers.
Farm Bill Priorities
When I was recently invited to testify about producer perspectives on the farm bill, I was happy to ﬂy to Washington, D.C., and speak before the House Agriculture General Farm Commodities, Risk Management, and Credit Subcommittee. Less than a week later, NCGA’s First Vice President Harold Wolle also shared corn grower views on the farm safety net as he testiﬁed in front of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Commodities, Risk Management, and Trade.
Harold and I urged members of the Ag Committees and Congress to:
Protect federal crop insurance;
Strengthen the producer safety net;
Bolster U.S. international market development eﬀorts; and
Support voluntary conservation programs.
Corn Grower Recommendations
When I was asked about the potential impact should cuts be made to crop insurance, I expressed what a major disaster that would be for corn growers. Federal crop insurance has a proven track record of helping producers quickly respond to natural disasters. And that’s why NCGA broadly supports increasing its aﬀordability.
I also made recommendations for improving the Commodity Title, including the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs. NCGA supports continuing and improving both programs, which provide eligible growers protection during times of decreased revenue or prices. Our farm bill recommendations seek to make these USDA programs more eﬀective and responsive through strategic investments and policy enhancements.
I also had an opportunity to mention the need to expand international markets by investing in trade promotion programs included in the Trade Title of the bill that boost U.S. agricultural exports and help agriculture and related businesses in rural America. Additionally, I touched on how NCGA supports multiple initiatives in the Conservation Title to make the existing working land conservation programs more eﬀective.
After the Hearing
Our work does not stop at the end of these hearings. While in D.C., I met with Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.) and had meetings with leaders at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including the administrator of the Farm Service Agency, to share the perspective of corn growers.
It was an honor to testify on behalf of NCGA and corn farmers throughout the country. My goal was to let my voic