Bush Represents Ohio and Country

August 8, 2012

I was recently voted to the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) Board — a board of 15 members representing America’s corn industry charged with implementing the policies that guide the organization to best serve U.S. corn farmers.

Though I’ve already worked closely with the board because of my role as an NCGA Public Policy Action Team chairman, I now have more of a say. My role as a board member puts me at the forefront of the information loop — I’m in the direct line of exchange.

I’m proud to expand my service as a passionate, dedicated ambassador representing Ohio and countrywide farmers on this national platform. I take my job as a grower leader very seriously.

Currently, our industry’s three top priorities are the Farm Bill, preserving the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) and working toward practical water-quality initiatives.

First and foremost is the Farm Bill. We’re working toward achieving crop insurance policies that are market-oriented to spend taxpayer money wisely and showcase the agriculture industry in the best light. We’re all aware of the legislation’s ongoing challenges and are hopeful that Congress will do its part quickly to pass a new five-year bill.

The drought brought cynical attention to ethanol. Some people mistakenly believe that we don’t have enough corn to divert to producing fuel. We’re doing our best to educate legislators, consumers and the media about the truths of America’s corn supply and the logistics of the RFS —the federally mandated legislation that promotes the development, commercialization and use of domestically produced renewable fuels including the use of 16 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol — to counter these inaccuracies.

Lastly, we’re staying informed about water-quality policies that may detrimentally affect farming practices. We’re cooperating with state and federal groups to act as stewards of the land, and OCWGA has even proactively engaged in sponsoring studies to promote continuing education.

For the next three years, I look forward to being your voice and serving the best interests of the corn industry.

OCWGA welcomes your questions/comments about or related to our work to support and advance the Ohio grain industry. If you’re interested in joining OCWGA, please contact us.

— Anthony Bush

OCWGA Vice President

NCGA Board Member

Brazil Corn Report: How Will It Affect U.S. Markets?

June 7, 2012

Though both the U.S. and Brazil have had agricultural experts forecast ample corn harvests this year, a recent report is making some question the security of America’s corn reserves.

Per a U.S. Grains Council report, Brazil’s summer crop harvest has matched its anticipated volume of 1.4 billion bushels and is expecting a 20 percent increase in corn planting. Additionally, a record 17.5 million acres are estimated for second-season corn (known as the safrinha), yielding another record-setting 1.1 billion bushels.

Like the U.S., Brazil experienced favorable planting weather and farmers had increased their acreage. But unlike the U.S., Brazil experienced decreased domestic usage and exported less, which “inundated Brazil with ample stocks.”

Brazil exports about 20 percent of its crop while America grows 40 percent of the corn sold for the world market.

Here in America, some analysts believe that the USDA has over-estimated the American corn supply and projections, leaving less of a carryout and a tighter supply.

While global competition is nothing new and projected crops are always difficult to predict, U.S. corn farmers have learned to take this information in stride. As we know, farm results are extremely variable and there is always supply uncertainty. It’s too complex and challenging to predict the future. If we receive a good rain, the U.S. will again deliver a robust crop to quell critics and drive market prices.

For now, it’s best to remain confident in America’s tradition of continually supplying an abundant corn crop and wait out the hype.

We welcome your questions/comments about or related to our work to support and advance the Ohio grain industry. If you’re interested in joining OCWGA, please contact us.

Farm Bill Forthcoming

May 2, 2012

The latter half of April breathed new life into the Farm Bill after the Senate Agriculture Committee recently passed legislation to authorize new farm programs for the next five years while reducing our federal deficit $23 billion. The bill now resides with the full Senate and awaits a possible vote and amendments.

But don’t get too excited. This will be a long and treacherous road.

Some of the leadership members in the House of Representatives have already voiced their objections to the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill and are drafting their own version, with reported reductions of at least $33 billion. The House and Senate will eventually have to merge their separate proposals to implement new farm legislation before the expiration of the current bill September 30, or they will be faced with the proposition of some sort of extension of current law.

Essentially, the Senate bill eliminates direct payments (subsidies to farmers based on historical production without regard to current prices or yields) and focuses on protecting and enhancing the current crop insurance program while coupling that with a new revenue program named the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC). While scrutiny remains, thankfully, crop insurance currently continues to be recognized as one the most accepted forms of public-policy support for commodity crop farmers because of the positive role the program has played to provide a sound risk-management tool for the farm.
Inevitably, one of the challenges of passing a Farm Bill is rooted in regional differences. A news story explained the challenge well — “Farm politics are more regional than partisan.” There’s a need to balance the interests of different geographic regions and commodities fairly.

Some of the more traditional Southern crop industries and their representatives have commented that protections for their products — chiefly rice, cotton and peanuts — are being reduced drastically compared to some of their Midwestern counterparts like corn, soybeans and wheat.  While we certainly have a very different viewpoint, we must acknowledge that these concerns exist if we are to move a positive and worthwhile Farm Bill in the near future.

Major Features (Farm Bill Markup Summary)

  • Eliminates direct payments to save $5 billion.
  • Savings would be invested in a new revenue insurance program (ARC) designed to complement crop insurance and protect farmers against multi-year losses caused by low prices or poor yields. Crop insurance would continue to be the tool used to protect against larger losses.
  • Payments would be capped at $50,000 per person or $100,000 for married couples.
  • Enforces stricter requirements that payment recipients be “actively engaged” in farming operations.

Congressional deadlock might threaten the September deadline, but there’s still the strong potential and hope to move legislation forward after witnessing the Senate Ag Committee come together in a bipartisan manner to find common ground for this important piece of legislation.

Another news author reminds us of the significance of this vital bill:

“There are many reasons public support for agriculture is critical to rural economies, to the security and stability of our nation’s food supply and to the American public. The point isn’t to argue that support should be eliminated or even reduced; with 2 percent of the nation’s population producing all of the food, society has a strong interest in providing a safety net for this tiny minority.”

OCWGA will continue to be engaged throughout the Farm Bill process and will update our members about its advancements.

We welcome your questions/comments about or related to our work to support and advance the Ohio grain industry. If you’re interested in joining OCWGA, please contact us.

Spring Planting Push

April 6, 2012

As expected, the USDA announced very favorable 2012 planting-season projections for our state and national corn and wheat farmers, proving again that our growers are capable of producing food, feed and fuel year after year.

Ohio and other Corn Belt states will set records this year, resulting from favorable weather and corn prices. If projected acres are realized, there will be a 4 percent increase from 2011.

Nationally, wheat is also faring well. If projected acres are realized, there will be 55.9 million acres of wheat planted across the county, which is also an increase from 2011.

Based from a March 1 prospective plantings survey, Ohio farmers intend to increase corn acreage and will naturally have a decrease of wheat acreage as a result of the wet and challenging fall.

Projected National Planting Highlights

  • 95.9 million acres of corn intended
  • 75-year-high corn acreage
  • Largest corn acreage in the United States since 1937
  • 3 percent wheat-acreage increase

Projected Ohio Highlights

  • 3,800,000 intended acres of corn
  • 12 percent increase of corn acres from 2011
  • 580,000 planted acres of wheat from 2011

Though the warmer weather is luring Ohio farmers to the fields, it’s important to keep in mind that these reports are speculations and that current market prices will adjust daily according to trader expectations and grain stock reports. Ohio farmers need to consider potential cold-weather surges (April 15 is the average last-freeze date), as well as the fact that crop insurance policies do not protect replanting costs if farmers plant before the earliest seeding date, which is April 6, before beginning the planting process.

It’s always good to remember standby planting tips to maximize your results, as outlined at the following Ohio’s Country Journal story.

Let us know about your planting forecast and progression.

We welcome your questions/comments about or related to our work to support and advance the Ohio grain industry. If you’re interested in joining OCWGA, please contact us.

Panama Canal: Why it Matters to an Ohio Grain Farmer

March 1, 2012

I was fortunate to represent the Ohio Corn Marketing Program (OCMP), along with a few of our officers and board members, at the U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC) 9th International Marketing Conference and 52nd Annual Membership Meeting in Panama February 13, 14 and 15.

The meeting is for state checkoff organizations and U.S. agribusinesses to discuss and plan for opportunities and challenges facing U.S. grain exports.

The Panama Canal is strategically significant to all exporting countries. Governments throughout the world count on it as a vital channel for most international trade opportunities, making the maintenance of its infrastructure critical.

A new generation of ships, called Post Panamax vessels, will haul three times the freight of current Panamax vessels. These new, larger ships will change the cost of shipping grain throughout the world, but don’t fit through the current canal locks and can’t navigate some of the current canal turns. Therefore, it’s being expanded.

This new era of transportation represents great opportunities for US grain exports.

But, many implications are hindering America’s ability to maintain its footing as a principal global-trade powerhouse, including tariff and non-tariff trade barriers, foreign production and export subsidies and price competition from aggressive competitors in Argentina, Brazil and the Black Sea region, which are increasing production in response to high global prices for corn and other feed grains.

The canal expansion affects every farmer. It allows competition in a world market to keep American farmers profitable. It’s perfectly clear that we need to support more aggressive engagement in trade policy issues. One council member said it best, “The U.S. cannot take market dominance for granted.”

Highlights of the meeting included:

  • CEO of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), Alberto Alemán Zubieta, shared his expertise
  • Christian Foster, deputy administrator for the Office of Trade Programs at USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), offered insights with his presentation “Strategic Priorities for U.S. Trade Leadership”
  • Discussions were had about the specifics of the canal’s current infrastructure expansions and upgrades
  • Tour of the construction site
  • Farmer leaders met to guide the council’s global vision and tactics for competing in a dynamic new market environment

Experiences like this remind us that every farmer in Ohio is competing in a global market. Maintaining U.S.-exports dominance is one of many factors effecting individual farm profitability. Ohio’s corn checkoff investment and grower involvement in the USGC is our recognition of this important market and of our commitment to developing market opportunities throughout the world.

View photos of the annual meeting in Panama.

We welcome your questions/comments about or related to our work to support and advance the Ohio grain industry. If you’re interested in joining OCWGA, please contact us.

Board Retreat Positions OCWGA for Advancement

February 3, 2012

Too often, the agricultural world is stuck reacting and pushing back against the crisis of the day instead of staying ahead of the curve to focus on our long-term goals.  With this in mind, the 2012 Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association (OCWGA) board of directors convened January 23 and 24 to review and discuss the organization’s culture, processes and execution for the immediate year and for the association’s enduring future.

The OCWGA Board comprises growers who are elected by their peers and are responsible for the decision-making and oversight of OCWGA’s efforts as they relate to the advancement of domestic and international issues that affect the success of Ohio’s corn and wheat farmers.

The retreat started with a discussion about board-member responsibilities while reflecting on the public perceptions of each commodity industry, before diving into deeper discussions about how to be at the forefront of issues and embrace opportunities to ensure the profitability and success of our grain farms.

Working sessions included policy setting using a grassroots approach and how we can better determine the priorities beyond the obvious 2012 issues of the Farm Bill or the Renewable Fuel Standard.

While the board demonstrated a passion and eagerness for a productive year focused on these very important issues, they also renewed their commitment to achieving long-term policy objectives and goal setting supported by aggressive media-relations efforts.

2012 Strategies

  • Be more proactive instead of reactive
  • Anticipate long-term challenges and opportunities for corn & wheat growers
  • Set the course to prepare and take advantage of future challenges and opportunities
  • Pre-emptive media-relations efforts
  • Instill more responsibility in board governance

The two-day event concluded on a high note and promised to lead OCWGA in a progressive direction. While questions remain about how these broad and lofty goals will be best achieved, it is heartening to know that such a dedicated and forward-thinking group is ready for the task.

We welcome your questions/comments about or related to our work to support and advance the Ohio grain industry. If you’re interested in joining OCWGA, please contact us.

New Year, New Board, Same Priorities

January 9, 2012

Guest author and OCWGA President Mark Wachtman:

2011 weather kept most of us in the state of Ohio wondering what was going to happen next. Which, to say the least, made for a very interesting year for the state’s farming community.

Your volunteers at the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association board had some of the same indefinite thoughts regarding ethanol, the Farm Bill and water quality, to name a few agricultural issues of interest. In addition, we were experiencing our first year as a combined organization!

Given these multiple variables, this board did an excellent job!

We (farmers) went from being regarded as one who was needed to help our country transition some of its dependence on foreign oil, to being regarded as taking food from our families and neighbors, as reprimanded by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and some media. Despite the incessant attacks, and unlike our friends involved with Big Oil, we did step up and request that the ethanol tax credit, VEETC, not be renewed and let it expire as it did with the close of 2011. While this has the potential to increase fuel prices, we believed it was fair to let the market work naturally and allow the ethanol industry to continue to mature on its own. This industry is still under heavy pressure indirectly from Big Oil and large food processors and our board will continue to defend our homegrown fuel and industry.

Farm Bill Safety Net
I am glad to say that we were prepared for this issue as well as any. We had great leadership from board members and staff. We worked hard to bring what we want for Ohio to the attention of both the National Corn Growers Association and the National Association of Wheat Growers to have a louder voice and share common ground. We’re continuing to work with these organizations and our congressional leaders to shift from the structure of direct payments toward a better loss-trigger product and protect and strengthen the crop insurance program.

Water Quality
This has been, and will continue to be, a moving enigma. There are many opinions about what quality water is and should be. We continue to try to get science behind this and present facts — not emotion — to support our beliefs about what’s best for the farm industry.

We introduced 27 people into a combined organization — All did a great job! When we started down this road at the beginning of 2011, everyone knew and voted that we would be a 15-member board by this time. I had the distinct pleasure of working with great individuals. I am proud to say that I had the opportunity to work with these people of whom have chosen to step down at this time: Kent Eddy, Terry McClure, Rob Rettig, Loran Brooks, David Cramer, Jay Griffith, Brad Haas, Phil Wenig, Charles Prasuhn, Dick VanTilburg, David Brewer, Richard McGinnis, Jerry Murphy, Ed Reely, Fred Yoder and Ron Rockhold. Thanks to all of you!

I, and everyone at OCWGA, look forward to a new year of navigating challenges and leveraging opportunities to improve our state’s corn and wheat industries.

We welcome your questions/comments about or related to our work to support and advance the Ohio grain industry. If you’re interested in joining OCWGA, please contact us.

Symposium Delivers Grain-Industry Info

December 1, 2011

Happy holidays!

As we welcome December, we also welcome an annual industry event that unites our state corn, soy and wheat growers — The Ohio Grain Farmers Symposium (OGFS).

Thursday, December 15 is the date for the symposium’s third year, taking place at Roberts Centre & Holiday Inn in Wilmington, Ohio.

Agenda topics include:

  • Water-quality discussions
  • Shale-gas leasing
  • Industry outlook for 2012

In addition to networking and social opportunities with fellow farmers, the OGFS trade show will have more than 30 companies on-site that serve the agricultural industry to speak with participants about their services.

OCWGA will also hold elections for its board of directors during the event. This leadership group is responsible for the oversight and management of OCWGA’s business operations.

Joe Shultz, former legislative assistant and a primary adviser and liaison for all issues related to agriculture, energy and rural economic development to U.S. Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, as well as assistant director of government relations for American Farmland Trust, will be in attendance. He currently serves as senior economist for the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry for Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow.

Shultz has first-hand agricultural experience from his work on behalf of the 2008 Farm Bill, as well as his personal familiarity with the industry from living on a 4th generation family farm in western Ohio.

He received a master’s degree in agricultural economics from Cornell University and his bachelor’s degree in agriculture from The Ohio State University.

To register online, visit http://www.ohiograinfarmerssymposium.org or call (888) 769-6446.

We welcome your questions/comments about or related to our work to support and advance the Ohio grain industry. If you’re interested in joining OCWGA, please contact us.

Farm Bill Finale?

November 9, 2011

We’re inching hurriedly closer to the establishment of the 2012 Farm Bill, but not without complicated negotiation factors and implications for final deliberations.

“We are undertaking a monumental shift in federal farm policy,” said Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.

To help offset the federal deficit, it has been recommended that current Farm Bill programs experience a $23-billion reduction throughout 10 years — $15 billion from the commodity title and $4 billion each from the U.S. conservation and nutrition titles — while still expected to maintain viable programs for our nation’s food, feed, fuel and fiber producers that are law for at least five years.

As food producers, and therefore, stakeholders of national agricultural policies, it’s vital to be aware of and knowledgeable about Farm Bill proceedings.

What to know:

  • Leaders of the Senate and House agriculture committees are attempting to insert the Farm Bill into the deficit supercommittee’s negotiations that would go for an up-or-down vote by Congress without amendment (becomes law without debate)
  • Ag committee leaders are scheduled to have their package finalized and delivered Nov. 1
  • If the supercommittee fails to agree to the plan or a revised version, farm policy may revert to the agriculture committees

OCWGA recommendations remain that the bill should:

  • Be fiscally responsible
  • Be publicly accountable
  • Maintain a strong safety net
  • Be revenue-based
  • Be effective for all geographic areas
  • Adjust to volatile and dynamic global markets
  • Manage risks that are beyond operator control

As the bill continues to develop, OCWGA will stay updated and active about voicing our beliefs about policy direction that’s in the best interest of our state corn and wheat growers.

We welcome your questions/comments about or related to our work to support and advance the Ohio grain industry. If you’re interested in joining OCWGA, please contact us.

Subsidies Don’t Cause Obesity

October 3, 2011

It’s blame that our industry has experienced many times — accusations that government agricultural supports are negatively impacting consumer health.

Recently, the Ohio Public Interest Research Group released a statement claiming that farm subsidies are making our kids fat rather than supporting the growth of healthy, nutritious food. The study focused on high fructose corn syrup stating that 14 of the 37 ingredients in Twinkies are made with federal subsidies.

Federal farm programs are criticized often, especially in light of discussions about the national deficit and pending 2012 Farm Bill.

Unfortunately, people are pointing the finger at the wrong culprit. Seventy-five percent of the Farm Bill regards nutrition programs including school lunches, food stamps and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), yet the parameters of these programs aren’t receiving criticism.

To really influence kids’ health, we need to educate them about the types of food to eat and how much to eat. The broad-based allegation that the assistance some farmers receive to provide affordable, abundant food for the country is the reason for a child obesity epidemic is outrageous. Farm programs are designed and used to help farmers manage risk from year-to-year uncertainty and to help our nation maintain a stable food supply.

The Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program has launched the “Food for Thought Challenge” — a campaign to change attitudes and behaviors about healthy eating in Ohio’s school communities.

Ten Ohio FFA chapters will be selected to receive $500 to develop campaign activities in their school. The best chapter program will be awarded $2,000 at the Ohio State FFA Convention next spring.

As industry advocates, it’s important to clarify, if and when possible, that it is an individual’s personal eating and exercise habits that affect his or her health, to help consumers and the media understand the truth of this far-fetched misconception.

As always, we welcome any questions or comments about or related to our work to support and advance the Ohio grain industry. If you’re interested in joining OCWGA, please contact us.