2020 Ohio Grain Farmers Symposium recap

By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Ohio Field Leader: a project of the Ohio Soybean Council and soybean checkoff

The 2020 Ohio Grain Farmers Symposium was held virtually as a webinar this year. The Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association (OCWGA), and Ohio Soybean Association (OSA) held their respective business meetings and had election of new trustees and directors. These were followed by informative presentations covered the grain markets, weather outlook, and a political and legislative review.

During the business meetings, both organizations approved their minutes and financial statements from the respective 2019 annual meetings. Newly elected board members for the OCWGA include: Denny Vennekotter from Putnam County, John Linder from Morrow County, Scott Ruck from Ashtabula County, John Schroeder from Crawford County, and Kelley Harsh from Delaware County.

Newly elected trustees of the Ohio Soybean Association include: Jeff Magyar of Ashtabula County, Jennifer Wilson-Oeschsle of Van Wert County, Jeff McKanna of Hancock County, Bob Suver of Clark County, and Scott Metzger of Ross County. The new OSA executive committee includes: President Ryan Rhoades of Marion County, Vice President Patrick Knouff of Shelby County, Secretary Jennifer Wilson-Oechsle of Van Wert County, and Treasurer Rusty Goebel of Williams County.

Dr. Ben Brown, Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University, began the presentations with a recap of 2020 and an agricultural commodity outlook heading into 2021. Dr. Aaron Wilson, Atmospheric Scientist and State Climatologist at The Ohio State University, gave a presentation looking back at the 2020 growing season across the country and other major growing regions around the globe. He also shared some long-term agricultural weather perspectives for the state looking ahead to the winter months, and 2021.

Christy Seyfert

An overview of the elections and potential impacts of the outcome was the topic of a presentation shared by Anne Thompson, Director, PAC and Political Strategy for the National Corn Growers Association, and Christy Seyfert, Executive Director of Governmental Affairs for the American Soybean Association. The 2020 election has received major attention both in and outside of agriculture.

“There was something for everyone in this election,” Thompson said. “One of the remaining questions is if a divided Congress will mean bipartisanship of a two-year stalemate.”

Much discussion in the election cycle surrounded rural America.

“There are varying schools of thought on what it means going forward, but three are opportunities to highlight agriculture priorities while the spotlight is on rural voters,” Thompson said.

While the congressional race in the Senate is still yet to be decided in Georgia, some of the leadership changes on committees will be important to agriculture.

“The slim margins in the House and Senate will be very tight, and hopefully drive bipartisan legislation,” Seyfert said. “One big change will be in leadership on the House Agriculture Committee changing from the current chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota, to David Scott of Georgia. On the Republican side of the aisle, the Ranking Member position will change from Mike Conaway of Texas, to GT Thompson of Pennsylvania.”  

There will also be changes on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

“Chairmanship will transition from Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, to either Republican Senator John Boozman of Arkansas, or if the Democrats take control of the Senate, then current Ranking Member, Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan will become the Chair, and Boozman will become Ranking Member,” Seyfert said.

Climate change is expected to be a key issue moving into 2021 with the new administration, and potentially in the next farm bill.

“President Biden listed climate change as one of the four pillars for his new administration,” Thompson said. “Other prominent democrats such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi along with some key Republicans are also signaling that Climate Change is an issue that needs to be addressed.”

An important piece of legislation for the future is the recently introduced Next Generation Fuels Act.

“This legislation is a first step in the process to transition the fuel supply into high octane fuel,” Thompson said. “Results would obviously include increased corn demand, along with reduced greenhouse gas emissions, improved air quality, and increase fuel efficiency.

“There were over 14,000 bills presented to be considered by Congress in the last year. This is just one of 14,000. This bill has a lot of stakeholder implications, including the automakers, oil refiners, and obviously agriculture. It will take a lot of work to gain the momentum needed to move it forward.”

The upcoming 2023 Farm Bill was discussed, along with potential challenges.

“The new leadership on both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees will need to get up to speed quickly,” Seyfert said. “There will be a loss of institutional knowledge on both committees.”

A common phrase in Washington is that “Farm policy is evolutionary, not revolutionary.”

There was over $45 billion spend on Ad Hoc assistance to agriculture in programs such as the MFP and CFAP,” Seyfert. “This may have an impact on the process and programs.”

Discussion is ongoing regarding whom the next Secretary of Agriculture will be. Currently the two leading candidates are believed to be Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Marcia Fudge of Ohio. There are also other names emerging as talks continue. Both ASA and NCGA believe that all the potential candidates named so far are people the organizations can work with in Washington D.C.

When it comes to trade, and the outlook of the next administration, ASA and NCGA are watching closely.

“The Biden team has indicated that there would be no immediate change to the Phase 1 Trade Agreement with China,” Thompson said.

In August of 2020, candidate Joe Biden stated: “A Biden-Harris Administration will promote and advance renewable energy, ethanol, and other biofuels to help rural American and our nation’s farmers, and will honor the critical role the renewable fuel industry plays in supporting the rural economy and the leadership role American agriculture will play in our fight against climate change.”

“NCGA, ASA, and other agriculture organizations will remind the new administration of this promise, and leverage it,” Thompson said.

Agriculture will be watching a few key things in the coming months.

“The Administration’s utilization of the Commodity Credit Corporation will be one,” said Seyfert. “Could this be used for carbon sequestration payments is a question being asked. The role of climate change will be notable.

“It is anticipated that the Administration will take lead from the Obama-era on nutrition and anti-trust issues. Workers safety and labor issues will also be watched. It is anticipated that once in office, Joe Biden will likely change some of President Trump’s Executive Orders, and reverse some of his regulatory changes.”

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