It's a common refrain at the 2013 Farm Progress Show – what will Congress do next for the farm bill?
The general answer? No one is quite sure. That's why National Corn Growers Association President Pam Johnson says now isn't the time to speculate – but the growers she represents are simply frustrated, not only with the farm bill, but also with some folks that question current ethanol policies.
"We have been calling all of our members to action to make their voices heard," Johnson said, noting that the August legislative recess, which continues until September, is going to be key in helping lawmakers understand the importance of the NCGA's policy priorities, including the farm bill and the Renewable Fuel Standard.
Farm bill waiting game
At the top of Johnson's list of concerns is the waiting game that is the 2013 Farm Bill. Within the bill, Johnson says crop insurance is number one. The organization has been pushing for nearly two years to secure a market-oriented risk management program.
"Farmers have told us that crop insurance is the most important risk management tool," Johnson said. "And we need a five-year farm bill, especially now."
The renewal of key marketing programs is also a focus area of the organization. Johnson said that U.S. corn growers stand to lose market share, for both grains and meat, each day market access programs aren't in full force. Johnson pointed out that as growers look to produce more grain on an acre of land, working in a global market is critical.
Looking into the fall and as the ag community waits for word about the House's nutrition portion of the split farm bill, Johnson says she is cautiously optimistic about what will come next.
"We have been working hard for the last two years, urging (lawmakers) to compromise and get to the table," Johnson said. "We do not want to see another extension. It's in the hands of the House now."
Johnson says the 40,000 members of NCGA – a membership record recently achieved at the 2013 Corn Congress – will be a big help in reinforcing the importance of not only the farm bill, but also the Renewable Fuel Standard.
"We see (the RFS) as an important part of not only our country's future, but in creating demand for renewable fuels we can grow right here," she said, explaining that the policy has brought jobs back into rural communities not only in the form of farming but also trucking and other industries.
"Giving consumers a choice at the pump now is huge, with the economy the way it is," Johnson explained, noting that ethanol's lower price is an important consideration for today's consumer.
As for concerns of EPA shifting volume standards lower for next year, Johnson says the RFS is working just the way it was intended to work, giving the Environmental Protection Agency the flexibility to consider mandated volumes. And regardless of changes, Johnson says corn growers will stand by the RFS because of its importance in the rural economy.
"It's not just good for farmers," she said. "If you look up and down Main Street, it looks a lot better."