Farmers and ranchers are always told they have to work together to educate the public about agriculture and work together to influence state and federal legislators to pass legislation positive to agriculture.
But what is positive to one group of agribusiness is negative to at least one other group of agribusiness. That positive, negative conflict is quite obvious as grain farmers are making good profits from selling their commodities, but livestock producers are paying high prices for the grain to feed their animals.
So, how can both groups work with the same intensity for passage of the next farm bill, and how can both groups work toward changing the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) by reducing the goals for fuel produced from non-petroleum feedstock?
Livestock producers have, in my way of thinking, almost said those in agriculture who won’t support reducing the RFS goals are un-American. They claim keeping the RFS as originally established is anti-livestock as its putting them into bankruptcy and making grain farmers into millionaires. The grain farmers aren’t becoming millionaires from selling their grain.
RFS Flexibility Act as proposed in Congress would mainly keep the U.S. dependent on foreign oil. The U.S. needs to continue supporting the research and development of renewable fuels technology as Congress tries to slash the federal budget to a skeleton, but this federal support will eventually increase the income of many sectors of agribusiness.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has been quoted as saying he does not support the proposed flexibility act that would reduce the federal ethanol mandate, which requires a specific goal of ethanol production each year.
Vilsack was definite about his lack of support for the bill on Radio Iowa. "I think it's ill advised," he reportedly said. The quote distributed had Vilsack further saying, "We're in the process of trying to identify alternative feedstocks, including corn stover, which won't necessarily conflict with our need for feed or food. So, my hope is that this proposal will not be passed and I certainly would not be supportive of it."
The bill originally introduced in the U.S. House would reduce the RFS by up to 25 percent if corn supplies dip to certain levels. Under current requirements, the ethanol industry must produce 12.5 billion gallons of ethanol this year. The standard for next year is 13.2 billion gallons.
Ethanol organizations are adamant that the RFS is needed to establish goals to wean the U.S. off petroleum-based fuels and especially the purchase of foreign oil.
There are a lot of differences in various sectors of agriculture that surface and are difficult to rectify. Even if farmers and ranchers speak similarly about educating consumers relating to agriculture in general, such as by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, there always are things in the background or even up front that have portions of the overall group in opposition to other portions.
Separate from the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, but a prime example in agribusiness is how farmers want to be exempt from regulations that ag retailers have to deal with daily. Why should large-scale farmers who own their own application equipment be exempt from training requirements, licensing requirements and regulatory oversight for operation, transportation and chemical storage?
Even though the Agricultural Retailers Association and the American Farm Bureau Federation agree on most agricultural issues, it is difficult for them to agree on appropriate regulatory oversight differences between their two memberships.
Agriculture is not one big homogeneous industry, and depending on the individual involved in agriculture that is educating consumers about agriculture, there will be small differences in emphasis and focus. The individual’s biases will come through, in my way of thinking.