Prime the Pump
Farmers wrapped up policy debates at the Commodity Classic in Phoenix, Arizona Saturday, tackling trade issues, defense of crop insurance, environmental regulations and issues that seem as evergreen as perennial crops. But something new is growing out of fertile frustration with a federal government that seems broken.
At the Corn Congress, voting delegates from the National Corn Growers Association voted digitally for their top priorities, giving the most points to ways to build demand for corn. They picked their favorites, letting a computer program sort it out. It’s not the sometimes slow debate over resolutions, but a faster process that the group’s leaders and staff will use in budgeting and planning for the coming year, according to NCGA president Chip Bowling, who farms near Newburg, Maryland, and Chris Novak, who took over as the group’s CEO last fall.
The result of the vote: bread and butter issues that could build markets for a crop currently valued at or below break even for many producers.
Delegates picked their main goals from three lists, called tiers. Leading tier A was building infrastructure to sell higher blends of ethanol. The top goal for tier B. was increasing exports. Topping a third, tier C list, was trade policy support, including defending USDA programs that help promote exports and were used last year for the first time for ethanol and distillers grains marketing overseas.
Novak said the list of goals was taken from more than 30 ideas sent to NCGA by state Corn Grower groups.
The emphasis on support for more ethanol sales follows a new program that NCGA quietly started within the past year called Prime the Pump.
So far Prime the Pump has raised about $26 million to buy blender pumps for retail fuel chains that agree to sell E15 (15% ethanol blends) for five years, Bowling said.
“We’re not doing this on our own. We’re doing this with the ethanol industry,” Bowling told Agriculture.com after the Corn Congress So far, Prime the Pump is working with five chains in the Midwest and one, Sheetz, that serves populous East Coast states.