Share Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest More than 350 Ohioans joined nearly 10,000 farmers from around the country for the 2017 Commodity Classic in San Antonio early this month to set policy, network and learn to improve their farms from some of the nation’s top experts.“The theme of the conference has really been farmer profitability. The last three years we have seen decreasing net incomes because of prices and that is a big concern,” said Keith Truckor, chair of the Ohio Corn Checkoff Board and Fulton County farmer. “Fortunately we had a good run of profitability so we are coming in with pretty strong balance sheets, which is a positive. As we look forward in the next year or two there are concerns about where profitability will be. With that in mind we are looking at trade and biofuels and farm bill policy to make sure we are on the forefront of turning this cycle back to stronger profitability for farmers in the United States. President Trump was carried by rural America and we want to make sure that he is aware of the fact that he made some promises during his campaign and we want to hold him to those promises.”Trade is at the top of the list of political concerns.“The ag world is very concerned about what is happening with trade. It is a major portion of the agricultural industry and Mr. Trump has not been very friendly to it at this time. I think things are going to work, though. His major concern is with the industrial portion of trade rather than the ag portion of it,” said Jerry Bambauer, American Soybean Association Board of Directors member, from Auglaize County. “He’s cancelled the Trans Pacific Partnership. We really didn’t have it implemented yet but we did have a lot of work done on it. He would like to go to bi-lateral rather than multi-lateral trade agreements. Bi-laterals can take a long time and our biggest challenge may be how long it takes to implement them.”Even if the Trump Administration does successfully navigate successful bi-lateral trade deals, the time spent prior to their implementation could mean big losses for agriculture.“If we have a trade agreement with a country we typically supply around 20% to almost 60% of the agricultural trade going into that country. In the countries where we have no trade agreements, we are down around 9%,” Bambauer said. “Trade agreements definitely have a major effect on our ability to export our products into other countries. And, we have a lot of non-GM food grade soybeans grown in Ohio. If we mess this up those arrangements could still happen, but not as much as it does now and it is a pretty good income source for a number of our farmers.”This concern is shared with the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association, according to president Jed Bower from Fayette County.“We thought we had some pretty decent trade deals, but looking forward we have to be positive,” Bower said. “This president did write ‘The Art of the Deal’ and we have to give him a chance to see what he can do and keep in positive conversation with him to be at the table the whole time.”On the positive side, the Trump Administration has aggressively addressed the regulatory environment at the federal level, said Tadd Nicholson, executive director of the OCWGA.“Trump has been focused on addressing the regulations throughout his campaign and the early days of his administration. We are nervous about some of the things he has done on trade but we are very optimistic about some of these other things,” Nicholson said. “We take the good with the bad. The action on the Waters of the U.S. was a key move that we needed to have happen and that got done early on. We are only six weeks into his administration and that is a great signal to us that we have someone we will be able to work with in the EPA.”Of course, ethanol was a hot topic at the Commodity Classic.“Any time a bunch of corn farmers get together, you are talking about ethanol because it has been such a mainstay. We have seen domestic ramp up of ethanol production and usage and now we are seeing more exporting of ethanol. If you can use corn to make it, we are interested in exporting it,” Nicholson said. “There have been some complicated things about ethanol in the news lately like points of obligation and the intricate details of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). We are about promoting the RFS, we defend it, we like it how it is. We would oppose anything that would hurt the RFS. There is nothing out there in writing that we can look at and we really don’t know what deals have been made. We do want to pay a whole lot of attention to this because there are opportunities, maybe, within the new administration. We want to get to know the Trump team the best we can to take advantage of every opportunity for Ohio’s corn farmers.“There was obviously a little angst in the ag community when he was making some of his initial appointments and their backgrounds. I have a lot of optimism at this point, though. The President just reaffirmed through a letter his support for the RFS and ethanol and renewable fuels in general. His team may have their history in the oil industry but this president has been pro ethanol.”There was also plenty of talk about the farm bill, Bower said.“As we are moving forward with the farm bill we have been talking about the importance of crop insurance, the title programs, how the PLC and ARC are working, and we did our listening sessions back home and brought that to the national level,” Bower said. “There are some discrepancies from state to state but a tremendous amount of common ground.”Those attending the general session at the Commodity Classic got a farm bill update first hand from U.S. House Ag Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas).“I’m driven to get the farm bill done on time for the good of farmers, consumers and the country,” he said. “If you want the drama of delays, short-term extensions or going back to the old law, then I’d suggest you go to another theatre or meeting hall. We’re going to get this thing done and on time. We have to so we can bring certainty to the industry for farmers and bankers and lenders so they can plan and get about the business of farming and growingThose attending the general session at the Commodity Classic got a farm bill update first hand from U.S. House Ag Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas).food.”Conaway also said that the White House is very supportive of a timely farm bill and that he will be working to tweak some of the concerns with the previous farm bill, including the dairy programs and reworking the Agricultural Risk Coverage plan to be a stronger safety net. He said nutrition program will be a part of the next farm bill and direct payments would not. The farm bill debate is expected to really pick up this summer.Water quality was also a topic, as other states are watching what is happening in Ohio.“Water quality is still right at the top of our priority list in Ohio and people are really watching to see how we have worked with our legislature and how some of the laws were formed,” said Todd Hesterman, Ohio Soybean Association president. “Others are trying to be proactive in their states as well and we areAs usual, the large trade show was a big attraction at the 2017 Commodity Classic.setting a pretty good example for them to follow.”Along with setting policy and discussing the issues, the annual meeting of the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association and National Association of Wheat Growers also featured a full array of PAC auctions, networking opportunities and a massive trade show that gave attendees plenty to stay busy. The beautiful San Antonio weather sure didn’t hurt either.