Faced with escalating grain stocks, the nation's corn and soybean trade groups vowed to push future crop demand higher through key channels such as exports and livestock, while protecting current demand drivers such as the Renewable Fuel Standard.
The announcements came on the first day of the 2015 Commodity Classic held here in Phoenix, where a record crowd of nearly 8,000 were in attendance. The event's trade show also set a record with 355 exhibitors.
At separate member meetings, farmer-leaders for the American Soybean Association and National Corn Growers Association urged congress to approve Trade Promotion Authority, which gives the President freedom to negotiate trade deals that Congress can approve or disapprove but not amend.
"International trade is the lifeblood for our commodity," said Richard Wilkins, a Delaware farmer and ASA first vice president. "In order to expand production of soybeans, we need markets."
Both organizations support a successful conclusion to the Trans Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations. "But in order to complete these trade deals we need TPA -- that's a big priority for us," Wilkins adds.
Wilkins said ASA would push to build new trade avenues with Cuba and other international markets. "Easing financial and banking restrictions with Cuba have been a stumbling block," he said. "For a neighbor that is only 90 miles from us, it would be a great benefit to Cuban citizens to have access to our safe and nutritious food."
ASA will also work to smooth trade hiccups with China, by far the United States' biggest soybean customer.
"The approval process for new technology and innovative traits (in China) is broken and there's no predictability," says Wilkin. "We ask them to return to a systematic approach based on scientific data. We hope that relationship continues because we lean heavily on that marketplace for commodities."
Renewables under fire
NCGA leaders said they would focus on building infrastructure to help the E15 ethanol market get off the ground. And, they are determined to protect RFS, which requires transportation fuel sold in the U.S. to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels.
"Any threat to the RFS is a threat we take seriously," says Chip Bowling, a Maryland farmer and NCGA president. "There has been no better success story in the last 10 years for a corn farmer other than the RFS. Our number one goal is to protect the RFS."
That task got a little more difficult this week as a bill, introduced by Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., would repeal the corn ethanol mandate in the RFS set by the Environmental Protection Agency every year.
"We as a group can't understand why (congress) would want to do that," Bowling said. "We have a 2 billion bushel carryover. We have plenty of corn that can be used as ethanol. Why would an agency be against something that is American grown and American used?"
ASA announced it would become more proactive on GMO food labeling initiatives. "For too long we've said, no, don't do this," said ASA president Wade Cowan, a Texas grower. "Now we want to start a new dialogue that acknowledges that consumers want to know what's in their food. We believe we need a GMO label that is certified by USDA as non gmo; Those people in the food chain who want to go in and label products as such can do so on a voluntary basis.
"It's a losing argument when you say consumers don't have a right to know what's in their food," he added. "We can turn this message to positive and say yes, you have the right to know if it's GMO free, but the most efficient way to do that is through USDA certification. Otherwise you have all these widely varying state initiatives, and the labels on the shelf wouldn't mean anything. Hopefully this is a message that catches on and we can put this issue behind us."