I just got back from an interesting trip. Peggy and I went to the American
Sugarbeet Growers Association’s annual meeting in Tampa. It was a celebration of the passage of a farm bill along with an important discussion of what is next in the never-ending list of trade, market and regulatory challenges we and all farmers face.
At the time, I thought the presentation on potential EPA rules was the scariest part. But later that night, at the banquet, I was suddenly struck by the number of kids in the room. I use the term “kids” here to refer to men in their 30s and 40s. Kids, you ask? Well, their dads were the respected leaders I worked with for years. That is the scary part. Busch, Deal, Fox, Grant, Steinbeisser — all last names that bring to mind different faces than the ones before me. Don’t get me wrong; I am not scared that the leadership provided by the next generation of men and women will be anything less than the past. I just suddenly felt old.
Next, we went to the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives meeting in New Orleans. This group, being a mix of farmers from all over the country, didn't toast the farm bill with champagne. Most liked some parts, but most didn't like it all — and no one liked the process. There was a general question, how did sugar do so well? My response, as always, was, “Fight and compete all you want, but ag must come to the Hill with one plan.”
With three years of “free time” to get ready, ag needs to find the place to put together that one plan. Farm Bureau, Farmers Union, NFO? I don’t think so. NCFC perhaps could be the catalyst in the discussion; but there is risk to the organization, after all, in a tight ball game that both sides end up angry at the refs. We, at the wheat roots level, must start the conversation or we may not get another farm bill.
One last thought. I had the chance to sit on Bourbon Street and visit about Wall Street with guys who work on Pennsylvania Avenue. Nothing in the Harry Potter series of books is as far from my reality as that mix.
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Write Field column is written by David Kragnes. David farms near Felton, MN. He is a former Chairman of American Crystal Sugar Co., and currently serves on the board of directors of CoBank.