Washington has struggled to complete meaningful tasks during the 118th Congress. Even more than normal the institution has lunged from one crisis to the next, unable to bridge philosophical differences between the parties and within the parties. This has delayed consideration of legislation for almost everything except funding bills that keep the government open.
Driving much of the dysfunction dealing with the federal spending and the accumulating debt. I shared this example at our annual meeting to make the point. The average family of four’s income in 2023 was $74,580. If they spent money like the federal government, they would have spent $102,961. So, they would have had to put $28,381 on the credit card which would be added to the $564,749 they already owe. This is an unsustainable trajectory.
If external politics were not enough, challenges and disagreements among the agriculture community have made things even more challenging for the timely consideration of a farm bill. It seems in recent weeks that battle lines have hardened between the House and Senate agriculture committee chairs and ranking members. Dueling op-eds, interviews, and press releases have been lobbed across these policy battlelines, causing collective concern among agriculture stakeholder groups. Failing to complete a farm bill this year would be a serious problem. In recent days, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has forecasted significant declines in net farm income. Need for a stronger safety net was apparent before these forecasts and only underscores the urgency of a farm bill.
As we’ve written before and noted above, the divide currently boils down to money. There is simply not enough money to adequately fund all programs. Stronger ARC/PLC programs cost tens of billions of dollars. There is no $100 billion pot of money laying around. Turning inwards to find money is also problematic because each program has its devoted constituency. We hope as time goes on that reform and innovative ideas are not spurned by policy makers. It’s the only path forward for both sides.
Democrats will have to be flexible when it comes to nutrition and Republicans will have to be flexible when it comes to farm programs. Paths forward should be hashed out behind closed doors. Public fights don’t help anyone. Additional resources are also needed from outside the farm bill funding baseline. A combination of approaches is needed more now than ever.
Grower leaders will travel to Washington at the beginning of March to advocate on behalf of our industry. They will meet with hundreds of congressional offices to provide farm and processing updates, highlight the importance of our industry to the nation, and advocate for a stronger safety net. They will certainly be encouraging members to get a farm bill done this year. As always, our fly-ins are a major undertaking and have a huge impact. We are thankful for the dedication of our growers that help make these events a huge success.
On Jan. 1, we welcomed Dr. Nicholas Storer onto our ASGA staff as the vice president for science and innovation. Dr. Storer was previously the head of Regulatory and Stewardship for Corteva. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our industry at a critical time when regulations are being drafted on pesticide use limitations to address endangered species. This has a potentially huge impact for all commodities, and we need as much sugar industry evidence to show EPA the real impact it would have on our industry.
EPA is evaluating regulations around neonicotinoids, chlorpyrifos and seed treatments. Rules are being drafted on gene editing that will determine how that technology will be regulated. All of these federal government activities have profound implications for keeping crop protection tools in the hands of farmers and gaining access in a timely manner to new products. Dr. Storer will be engaged with researchers across the country to assist in interaction with federal regulators and make sure we are doing all we can to bring solutions to beet producers and processors. He has experience globally and will be engaging with sugarbeet researchers around the world to see what solutions they are bringing to similar issues. This is a critical time for our industry and we have brought a great talent to our ranks.
Congratulations to Neil Rockstad from the Red River Valley as our new president, Tim Deal from Minn-Dak as our vice president and LaMar Isaak as our treasurer. These are solid leaders of a very qualified board of directors. We again are very thankful for Nate Hultgren from Southern Minnesota who served as president the last two years.
Luther Markwart is the executive vice president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association.
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