At the national level, corn, soybean and wheat commodity organizations are looking to assess their priorities for the future and focus on their strengths. There was an update outlining the plans for the future from each national organization at the December Ohio Grain Farmers Symposium held in Columbus.
The National Corn Growers Association’s strategic plan will seek to enhance consumer trust, and related objectives. The plan will include strategies for key NCGA programs in that effort, including its participation in the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, CommonGround and the Corn Farmers Coalition.
“We are looking into where we want to be at in five years with the development of a strategic plan,” said Anthony Bush, who serves on the NCGA Board and farms in Morrow County. “We felt like we were an inch deep and a mile wide and we felt like we really needed to focus on what we were good at. We are working on that and it will be coming out the end of January.”
Ohio’s Jed Bower, of Fayette County, is serving on the NCGA Public Policy Action Team overseeing the development of the strategic plan.
The American Soybean Association is also taking a strategic look at goals for the future.
“ASA has gone through a large change in the past year. We are trying to find out where our pinpoint should be and it needs to be with our relationships with our senators and representatives on the important issues for us. We need to build domestic demand and expand our international market access,” said Bret Davis, who serves on the ASA board and farms in Delaware County. “The new ASA strategic plan focuses on demand goals, policy, trade and regulatory issues, and providing additional financial resources for policy work through new opportunities and providing states with flexibility to let them do what they do best.”
These goals encompass a broad range of issues that will demand attention in the coming years.
“High oleic soybeans are making a big difference in what our food systems are going to be needing. And aquaculture is a good place to use soybean meal in the food rations and that has been a real plus in the meal markets. It is a growing market that we can supply,” Davis said. “We are looking at freedom to operate too. If we can’t do the job that we are allowed to do by our consumers and regulators, it hurts in our pockets.”
A strategy for the future certainly must include the recent changes in the Panama Canal, a key transportation boon for soybeans in particular.
“We just went to Panama and got to see the Canal as it was being finished — what a difference that will make to allow us to move our beans to where they need to go,” Davis said.
Other key issues include biotech labeling, a possible two-year extension on the biodiesel tax credit, and important trade relationships, including Cuba.
“One of the great things I have seen in the last few years is that the soy industry is working so well together and our farmer-to-farmer relations have been fantastic and that is what it takes — working together for the soybean industry,” Davis said.
David Schemm, a Kansas farmer with the National Association of Wheat Growers, talked about the importance of a strategic plan for the nation’s wheat growers.
“The National Wheat Action Plan is in the beginning stages right now to get profitability back into wheat. It is not one single area but several areas that are needed to get profitability back into wheat right now. Mills are helping transition acres into organic wheat production to satisfy a market that they need more supply for. We are not saying organic is for everyone but it may work to increase profitability for some farms,” Schemm said. “We represent a huge part of the country geographically. Our major policy areas we have been working on for the past year are farm bill implementation, transportation and tax policy. We need to have one strong voice in agriculture on one united front on these issues. Grassroots engagement is the key.”
The idea behind the Wheat Action Plan is to raise productivity so that wheat no longer loses acreage to corn and soybeans by being less economically appealing. NAWG calculates that for every $10 spent on public and private industry corn research in 2014, only 70 cents went into wheat research.
Additional goals in the plan included genetic improvements for wheat yields, developing strong resistance to fusarium head blight (or scab), improved rust resistance for high moisture years, and drought tolerance. Opening trade barriers and expanding wheat exports are also key priorities.