Pam Johnson, National Corn Growers Association president, updates reporters on farm-related issues at the Commodity Classic in Kissimmee, Fla. She said the NCGA is working diligently to educate lawmakers and consumers about agriculture and to ensure that public policies support farmers.
Pam Johnson, National Corn Growers Association president, updates reporters on farm-related issues at the Commodity Classic in Kissimmee, Fla. She said the NCGA is working diligently to educate lawmakers and consumers about agriculture and to ensure that public policies support farmers.

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — The farm bill, crop insurance and transportation are all important policy matters for corn growers. But one issue trumps all others.

“What do I fear most? That it doesn’t rain this year — really,” said National Corn Growers Association President Pam Johnson of Iowa.

She spoke to media at the Commodity Classic, the annual convention and trade show of the corn, sorghum, soybean and wheat industries, which attracted a whopping 1,000 new attendees this year.

Johnson said Congress’ farm bill extension is “not what we wanted to see,” but the NCGA still is hopeful.

“In D.C., we are dealing with what is going on — and what is not going on,” she said. “We still are really pushing for a five-year comprehensive farm bill. This last year with the drought certainly showed us how crop insurance is so important to us. It is the cornerstone of risk management and can provide stability, especially for our young farmers.”

Johnson noted there have been a lot of different farm programs in the past four decades. But she touted the ability and effectiveness of crop insurance to help keep growers in business when faced with adversity.

“I would say that I believe that we’re at a point now where we’re at the most effect risk management program with crop insurance that we’ve had,” she said.

“We keep working at trying to explain to our legislators and trying to explain to other constituents why this is good for them — not just for us as for farmers, but also for consumers,” she added, citing one of every 12 jobs in America is tied to agriculture.

Would her view of crop insurance change if, for example, commodity prices fall 30 percent and interest rates double?

“I’m still going to purchase it. It’s still going to be a cornerstone of risk management on our farm,” she said. “We’ve been through the time of target prices and when we had a drought — those target prices wouldn’t have helped at all if you were living in Kentucky or southern Illinois this year because you have to have to bushels in order to get that protection under a target price.”

She explained that farming — like the weather — is cyclical. In good years, she said, farmers pay down debt.

“We’ve all been reading that farmers are in the best economic shape that they’ve been in for a long time, even though they came through the drought,” she said. “We also know that there were farmers who possibly lost more than one year’s equity this year.”

Many growers still are dealing with the impact of last year’s drought, the farm leader lamented.

“Back home on the farm, there are still a lot of farmers who are looking at continued drought this year. It has lessened east of the Mississippi and is more prevalent in the west,” she said.

The NCGA also is working to defend against attacks on renewable fuels.

“We will not let these attacks stand,” Johnson said, stressing the supply-and-demand market system works. “We know our potential to produce is very great, and we know that we have to continue to build that demand.”

She said the NCGA is trying to connect more with its audience and with constituents, citing efforts with:

* The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, a coalition of more than 80 organizations representing virtually all aspects of agriculture that engages in dialogues with consumers and answers questions they have about how today’s food is grown and raised;

* CommonGround, a collaboration with the United Soybean Board to increase awareness among urban and suburban consumers of the value of modern production agriculture in their lives;

* A partnership with NASCAR and American Ethanol to pump up ethanol fuel’s visibility and demonstrate its performance capability; and

* The Corn Farmers Coalition, an alliance with 14 state corn associations to educate policy-makers in Washington about how tech-savvy, innovative farmers are growing more corn every year — for food, animal feed, ethanol and exports — while using fewer resources and protecting the environment.

The nation’s waterway system is crucial in moving commerce, creating and sustaining jobs and supporting economic growth, particularly in the Midwest, said NCGA Chairman Garry Niemeyer of Illinois.

He praised legislation to – finally — update locks and dams that was introduced recently by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and is cosponsored by Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

“It’s time that, as a country, we start growing this country. We need to have to have infrastructure improvements. They’re absolutely essential,” he said.

“If we can pass these free-trade agreements, but we can’t reliably deliver the grain, that’s just going to create another problem,” Niemeyer said. “And it’s time. We built locks to last 50 years. They’re 80 years old. It’s time to build new locks.”