Commodity group panelists share thoughts on important issues 

National commodity group staff sat on a panel Jan. 26 at the Kansas Commodity Classic in Salina, Kansas. From right includes: Kyle Kunkler, American Soybean Association; Craig Meeker, National Sorghum Producers; Chris Tanner, Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and Wayne Stoskopf with the National Corn Growers Association. (Journal photo by Kylene Scott.)

At the Kansas Commodity Classic held recently in Salina, Kansas, representatives from corn, soybean, sorghum and wheat organizations shared their thoughts during the national staff panel. 

Included on the panel were: Craig Meeker, National Sorghum Producers; Chris Tanner, Kansas Association of Wheat Growers; Kyle Kunkler, American Soybean Association; and Wayne Stoskopf, National Corn Growers Association.  

Farm bill 

Kunkler started off by giving his thoughts on the farm bill and its many moving parts and pieces, especially since it is election season, too.  

“There are lots of lots of political-related activities and sort of forecasting and foreseeing the potential outcomes of those elections, and regulatory agencies are moving along very quickly and aggressively on a number of items,” he said. 

At ASA, Kunkler spends much of his time helping to create regulatory policy on pesticides and biotechnologies. 

“There’s quite a bit going on in that space as well,” he said. 

Tanner said most of the national wheat leadership was in Washington, D.C. during the Kansas Commodity Classic, and representatives were helping with farm bill and policy issues and economic research as well as working on behalf of wheat growers.  

‘We’ve had a pretty busy policy (season),” Tanner said.  

Corn growers are busy with policy as well, and Stoskopf, who is the director of public policy at NCGA, said when all the commodity groups meet at the (national) Commodity Classic, they are going to evaluate several issues, with the two most important issues for corn growers being market demand and trade agreements.  

National commodity group staff sat on a panel Jan. 26 at the Kansas Commodity Classic in Salina, Kansas. Wayne Stoskopf with the National Corn Growers Association answers a question while Chris Tanner, Kansas Association of Wheat Growers looks on. (Journal photo by Kylene Scott.)

“Every day the national staff is definitely working to make sure that you have markets for the crops that you are producing in this state and across the country,” he said. “With corn, of course, the conversation (is often) about ethanol. It should be easy right now for us to have year-round E15.” 

There are challenges politically with E15; however, and NCGA is always pushing to make a long-term fix, Stoskopf said. Ensuring land is available to plant corn to help with the continued expansion for domestic biofuels is something the corn team is working on, too.  

The NCGA also helps with trade agreements. “Right now we’re having an issue with Mexico—just continuing to have trade there,” he said. 

The continual fight with Mexico over genetically modified corn, is troubling, too, he said.  

Crop insurance 

Tanner went back to the farm bill, and one of the NAWG’s priorities on the farm bill is keeping crop insurance.  

“One thing that is probably more specific to wheat this year that came out of Kansas on crop insurance is for the separation between fallow practices, so where I’m at in my region of the state, that makes a little bit simple tweak to crop insurance,” he said. 

The KAWG is also working on the language in policy when it comes to harvesting cover crops, an advantage for every commodity, Tanner said.  

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“It allowed lower CI scores and allowed row crops that we all want to use as well, a holistic farm environment that will help them be more profitable and more accepted as we move forward with carbon policies,” he said. 

Meeker also had thoughts on the farm bill and said there needs to be more “farm” in the farm bill. 

“We need relevant safety nets,” he said. “Every one of us needs a relevant safety net. I think that’s what all four of these organizations have been diligently working on in the past year with congressional leadership on the House and the Senate side.” 

NSP is committed to building those safety nets and getting a farm bill that will help the farmers at the right time, he said.  

“I’m not going to force a round peg in a square hole, but we have to build them now,” Meeker said. 

Endangered Species Act 

Kunkler touched on “one of the least known issues that is flying under the radar,” the Endangered Species Act.  

“How many know what the Endangered Species Act is going to require for your farm?” he asked. “How many have been tracking what EPA has been doing with all these pesticide proposals related to it?”  

The ESA was passed into law in 1973.  

“Most of the time it’s intended if there is a federal project—think (if) you’re building a bridge over a creek and there’s an endangered turtle,” he said. “How can we protect the turtle and make sure building bridges will not harm the turtle? It’s a lot harder with pesticides.” 

Pesticides are registered for dozens of property uses across hundreds of millions of acres, and could intersect nearly all 1,700 endangered or threatened species and their habitats. To further complicate matters, Congress gave the EPA 15 years to re-register every pesticide on the market.  

“That’s all 900 of those they have,” he said. “They have three years left to do all of that work. They’re not going to be able to do it.” 

Trade matters 

Meeker moved the conversation back to trade and said sorghum has experienced growth in the last few years, especially in countries like China and Mexico.  

“I think all uses of sorghum have shown some growth for sure, and human consumption is always increasing market for us,” he said. He noted that sorghum is now also part of the school nutrition program. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for young people to get an opportunity to have sorghum,” he said. 

Meeker had a team out to his farm to showcase sorghum as well as the school feeding program.  

“We had a great opportunity, he said. “My children actually ate sorghum and took it to school and shared it with their friends, and they actually enjoyed it. and I think that’s a great opportunity to again to showcase the value of sorghum.” 

Sorghum is used in the pet food industry not just in the United States but across the world, with China a growing market. 

“They’re not just pet owners,” Meeker said. “They’re pet parents, and I don’t agree with that statement, but that’s what they’re telling me it is and so pet parents treat their pets like they would their children, and they feed their pets very, very well.” 

Pet owners are concerned about issues like diabetes.  

“Sorghum really can help in that pet food ration to change some of those dietary problems,” Meeker said. 

Much of U.S. sorghum goes to China, and NSP is working to keep a trading relationship relevant with that country. Inbound trade mission teams have visited Kansas farms and others in south Texas and across the sorghum belt.  

“It’s kind of like continuing to date your wife, and we’re going to continue to date our consumers,” Meeker said. “We’re going to continue to date our trade partners, and we’re going to continue to make sure that relationship is a good relationship.” 

Kylene Scott can be reached at 620-227-1804 or [email protected].