New NCGA president focuses on crop insurance, renewable fuels

As the 2023 farm bill starts to come into full view, National Corn Growers Association President Tom Haag conveys the importance of crop insurance to growers.

Corn producers across the country have expressed support for the program, which is a public-private partnership that provides growers with certainty, Haag said.

NCGA is unified that Congress needs to “leave crop insurance alone.” The program has proven to be a successful management tool, he said.

Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs are designed to protect growers from a dramatic drop in crop prices or revenues.

He said the leadership team of growers and staff will look at other programs and needs that are tied to federal programs. Haag said those programs are going to be tied to what Congress is willing to allocate. That might be an area in the farm bill where, if monies are available, ARC and PLC could get additional support.

NCGA had also had the pedal down on the push for 30% blend ethanol and a win for consumers. The grind is also a byproduct that can be used as animal feed. The Next Generation Fuels Act allows 30% ethanol blend into gasoline as a higher-octane blend. The bill was introduced in the U.S. House in 2021 and was sponsored by Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-IL, as a way to transition gasoline and vehicles to low-carbon, higher octane fuel to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet future needs of more advances vehicles by using higher ethanol blends, according to the NCGA. Haag said the effort has bipartisan support and that is also shown in the U.S. Senate with cosponsors Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, and Chuck Grassley, R-IA.

“The ball is rolling and I think there is a great opportunity for the follow through,” Haag said. “If we get a 30% blend and I think if they want to use the science behind our technology that we can compete with the electrical vehicles.”

More ethanol in production benefits corn growers, he said.

Both the farm bill and the Next Generation Fuels Act are just the start of what he and farmers are going to be looking at over the next year. Haag began his duties on Oct. 1 and will serve a one-year term.

Haag is a fourth-generation family farmer from Eden Valley, Minnesota, and he had a virtual press conference on Oct. 4. He and his son, Nathan, farm about 1,100 acres of corn and 800 acres of soybeans.

“Every year is a different opportunity to do something. You never know what Mother Nature is going to bring us,” Haag said in his opening video. “You’re not doing the same thing every day.”

He likes the spring because it is the time to plant crops but enjoys the fall even more because that is when he sees how the crops performed and the benefits of what he and his son did throughout the growing season.

“I’m all in for America’s corn farmers,” he said.

Haag said while in the past year corn producers have been saddled with high fertilizer costs, some cases up 300% compared to the previous growing season, it has settled down to about 200% increase, which is still too high. The NCGA has been working to communicate the story with companies such as Mosaic to help them understand the farmer is the end user and has to deal the most with the price shock. He also tells companies that high fertilizer prices will not last forever.

He hopes that the Waters of the United States rule could eventually get settled because farmers want a common sense approach with a certainty in policy. Past presidents Barack Obama, Donald Trump and current President Joe Biden have all had different views on how the rule should be applied, which has frustrated farmers and ranchers who do not know how to plan when it comes to dealing with future regulations.

Where he and his son farm, the drought has impacted production. His normal corn yields are about 175 to 180 bushels per acre and they could be in the 130- to 140-bushel range although it will not be known until the combines starting picking corn. He anticipates that with the benefit of August rains, his family’s soybean crop will range from the upper 40s to lower 50s per acre, which is about normal.

In southern Minnesota, where moisture was more timely, producers are likely to have good yields, he said.

The drought has also impacted river flows particularly on the Mississippi River, he said. The barges are the most cost-effective way to transport grain to the Gulf of Mexico.

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“Waterways are still the best way to move our grain,” Haag said.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].