You turn on the TV, and there it is again—more political news from Washington, D.C. Although South Dakota is a thousand miles from the capital, what happens there can have a major impact on farmers here in the Heartland. Influencing agricultural policy to benefit South Dakota corn farmers is more important than ever.
The South Dakota Corn Growers Association (SDCGA) takes pride in being a grassroots organization that is committed to serving the interests of South Dakota corn farmers, especially when it comes to influencing policy both in Pierre and D.C. One of the ways we work to influence policy is by taking a contingent of SDCGA members to the capital every year to visit with our South Dakota congressional delegation.
Meeting face to face with those who represent you in D.C. is one of many ways to make your voice heard on agricultural policy issues. While there are a plethora of agricultural policy topics to discuss with our legislators, there are three major issues that SDCGA will be discussing this year. We spoke with three SDCGA Board members, President Troy Knecht, Keith Alverson and Doug Noem to get their perspectives on these important issues.
Advocating for Year-Round Ethanol Availability
SDCGA is focused on getting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to properly implement year-round E15 and enforce the legislation related to ethanol that is already on the books.
To combat the damage former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was causing to the agriculture industry, SDCGA focused on educating the general public about the economic importance of corn for South Dakota and across the nation. The organization has been collaborating with several other groups and organizations, including Growth Energy, Poet, the American Coalition for Ethanol, the Renewable Fuels Association and, of course, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).
“I think our efforts were successful,” says Knecht. “Pruitt resigned. We’re monitoring the situation with the new EPA director to make sure these things get corrected.”
Knecht states that what the SDCGA would like to see reallocation for the waivers that were improperly granted to oil refiners, or for the EPA to force the oil refiners to retroactively make up for the ethanol they didn’t have to blend.
South Dakota Corn Relies on International Trade
The U.S. government’s stance on trade and global exports has had a negative impact on the agriculture industry. The agriculture industry thrives on a bustling export market, helping to feed the world. Trade conflicts can bring all of that to a screeching halt—bad news for South Dakota corn farmers.
“From a South Dakota perspective, just over half of our corn is used in our state between ethanol and livestock,” says Keith Alverson, SDCGA Board member. “The rest goes to our export partners. Our rail system takes corn to the Pacific Northwest, where it is shipped to Asian markets. We depend upon that outlet for a lot of our commodity corn in South Dakota.”
“We’ve seen a significant uptick in interest for ethanol purchases around the world to clean up the air and get rid of smog,” says Alverson. “The majority of consumers of U.S. meat products live outside the U.S. So, for agricultural farmers, having those markets open and free is critical. Anything done that impacts us negatively hurts everyone in both the short and long run, and gives our global competitors a leg up. The U.S. needs to continue being a reliable trading partner.”
SDCGA Supports CRP Changes in Farm Bill
On the domestic side, the SDCGA has been advocating on behalf of South Dakota corn growers on key aspects of the Farm Bill. SDCGA supported keeping the Harvest Price Option within crop insurance policy and maintaining crop insurance levels for farmers. The No. 1 priority of the SDCGA is maintaining crop insurance levels for South Dakota farmers.
For Title I of the Farm Bill, SDCGA has focused on enhancing the price loss coverage (PLC) program to make it more attractive. SDCGA would like to see the bill increase PLC coverages and raise reference prices to level out. Despite having a good plan in place, it was dashed by Senator Pat Roberts from Kansas, Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
On conservation issues, SDCGA supports a 30 million acre cap on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres. The Senate version of the Farm Bill has a 25 million acre cap, while the House of Representatives version of the Farm Bill has a 29 million acre cap.
“They will have to hammer that out in committee,” Noem says. “There is going to be an increase in the cap on CRP acres, but we’re just not sure how much that will be.”
Now, more than ever, it is critical to make sure that all South Dakota farmers work together for better prices, better trade opportunities and common sense regulations. Be part of the conversation today!