Working for corn farmers
I don’t think I could imagine two consecutive years that could be more different for corn farmers than 2021 and 2022. Kentucky farmers blew the top off yields last year – this year, well, for most of us, it wasn’t as bad as 2012. The role of the Kentucky Corn Promotion Council is to balance out all of the turmoil and volatility that can damage us, to provide some certainty or predictability, or at least stabilize our industry when difficulty is in high gear. For this year, the farmer-led Kentucky Corn Promotion Council placed efforts and resources behind many programs on behalf of corn farmers, but let me use my column to highlight one.
We finished 2021 and started 2022 amid out-of-control fertilizer costs. We invested checkoff funds to gather information to combat artificial price hikes by significant fertilizer conglomerates. These efforts intensified in the Spring of 2022 to fight back on tariffs (nearly 20% by Mosaic Company and CF Industries on a handful of countries) that they could place on the entry of fertilizers into the U.S. It concerns me that when the marketplace provides grain farmers very favorable returns for commodities, even for a relatively short time, it is often used by many of our most critical input manufacturers as a reason to justify higher prices. When you consider that the recent successes in agriculture have come from applying science and practices to maximize the efficient use of all resources, it is clear that we must be diligent to guard against unfair pricing and availability issues in the input supply industry. Therefore our first efforts began by convincing the International Trade Commission (ITC) that FARMERS were the ultimate customer of these multinational companies and that we had a vested interest in resolving the situation.
We were successful on March 11, 2022, elevating this issue to the point that USDA and DOJ launched public inquiries. Your checkoff funds assembled the information that prompted those actions. The next step was Congress, and we assisted in a Congressional letter to appeal to the ITC to end the fertilizer duties. Your checkoff funds created the report and information that led to that influence. By the end of the month, Trade Ambassadors were called into Finance Committee hearings. By the Summer, ITC reversed its ruling and ended the fertilizer industry’s efforts in market distortion.
This is a great example of your checkoff working for you on issues that matter for your bottom line, and there are many more. I invite you to read through this annual report. Make yourself aware of the impact that your checkoff dollars have on market development to boost corn utilization, production capacity to bring new technology and information to your farm, and trade promotion to keep the trust and confidence of our international customers. All of these things are made possible by your checkoff investment. As the Council, we remain focused on investing your funds responsibly and in ways that’ll improve your livelihood. It’s a privilege for us, and it’s a task we don’t take lightly.
Ray Allan Mackey, Chairman
Kentucky Corn Promotion Council
I was honored to take over as president of the Kentucky Corn Growers Association in January after Richard Preston from Hardin County termed off the Board of Directors. At the time, little did we know how challenging a crop year we would face. As KyCGA President, I knew there would be challenges in the farm policy and advocacy arena, but I didn’t know where they would reveal themselves. Reflecting, I’m proud of how we handled a long list of issues that presented themselves over the past year. I think we did a great job mobilizing farmers on behalf of their industry and preparing them to argue particularly complex topics.
Estate Tax Changes
At the beginning of our 2022 operating year, KyCGA joined coalitions to push back against a congressional attempt to eliminate the stepped-up basis as part of the funding mechanism for the American Families Plan. We put our grassroots mechanism in full swing. Farmers responded to the calls to action and utilized the technical information we accumulated to reinforce how family farms would be negatively impacted. Ultimately, that provision was removed from the Budget Reconciliation Package during the final hours of negotiation on that legislative package.
Tornado Task Force
One of my first actions as president was to appoint and chair a task force to console and encourage farms impacted by the tornado on December 10, 2021. Any time Kentucky farmers’ capacity to produce or market grain has been diminished, it’s KyCGA’s role to evaluate how the organization can help. The task force researched the names and contact information of affected farms and reached out to each one with an offer to engage in appropriate ways. Sometimes that meant sharing a planning and zoning commission contact or a connection with a government agency to ensure the rebuilding tools are provided. Many times, our role was to just provide an encouraging word and expression of support to a fellow farmer in their time of need.
E-15 Emergency Waiver
As fuel prices rose in the Spring of 2022, corn and ethanol organizations kept ringing the bell with the Biden Administration about how E-15 could assist in reducing prices at the pump. We suggested ways EPA could facilitate more gallons of ethanol into the nation’s fuel supply. In April, our advocacy efforts paid off when intentions for an Emergency Waiver for summertime sales of E-15 were announced in a farm shop by President Biden. A big win for a major priority of corn farmers.
15 Billion Gallons RVO, Rejected SREs
Similar to the efforts on year-round E-15, our advocacy efforts for ethanol had another breakthrough in 2022 with the announcement by EPA to set Renewable Volumetric Obligations (the enforcement mechanism for the RFS) to be at the full statutory levels for the first time in the history of the RFS. Also, for the first time in RFS history, EPA rejected every exemption request by refiners to circumvent their obligations under the RFS and remanded the gallons from several waivers that were previously struck down in the courts. This set of significant wins put the RFS back on track.
Next Generation Fuels Act introduced in Senate
Our industry’s signature policy initiative was introduced in the House in 2021 by Congresswoman Bustos (D-IL), and Congressman Comer was an original co-sponsor. In 2022, Senator Grassley (R-IA) introduced companion legislation, creating a bi-partisan, bicameral introduction. This accomplishment is a huge milestone for a policy that helps auto manufacturers utilize ethanol’s high octane values to modernize the internal combustion engine to boost power and efficiency. We have a long road ahead to continue to bring many other stakeholders under the tent, like petroleum refiners and fuel retailers, and that work continues. Your association leaders and staff remain committed to expanding market opportunities for your corn through ethanol. It remains the largest segment of your corn utilization portfolio and the largest growth opportunity for corn demand.
Fertilizer Tariffs Elimination
Ray Allan covered this topic in his column. The association engaged to enable that success as well. It’s a great story about the power of grassroots to affect issues that matter for your bottom line and the value of your association and checkoff investment to stabilize our farming profession, which is one of the riskiest in the economy.
“Fight EPA” Campaign to Protect Our Right to Use Atrazine
Being one of the safest, most widely-used crop protection products in a farmer’s toolbox, Atrazine will always be in the crosshairs of extreme environmental organizations. They will never let up on this priority because they know if they can take this product from farmers, they can take any product. Throughout the summer of 2022, we initiated another grassroots campaign with EPA to provide them leverage to follow science when extreme anti-ag interests compel them otherwise. This campaign ended on October 8, 2022, and it was highly effective. We discuss these efforts more deeply on page 12 of this report.
Thank You for the Privilege to Serve
My term as KyCGA President will be a short one. It has been an honor, but similar to Richard Preston, the timing of my board seat has been termed out, which disqualifies me from holding an officer seat for the association. I am proud of the accomplishments listed above. As a member of KyCGA, a member of the industry, or a checkoff contributor, you should also be proud. But we should never grow so much in pride that we relax. There will always be a long list of battles, and I am a firm believer in the power of this and similar organizations to win them.
Joseph Sisk, President
Kentucky Corn Growers Association