Jan 9 - Recently, Off the Cob spoke with National Corn Growers Association President Pam Johnson on her outlook for corn growers in the new year. Emphasizing the importance of grassroots action, Johnson called on farmers across the country to push for a new, five-year farm bill that protects crop insurance programs.
"When I think about 2013, I immediately think about how critical it is to get a farm bill passed that goes beyond just an extension," said Johnson. "We were disappointed that we could not get a farm bill through the House, up for debate and passed in 2012. We start this new year ready and willing to go back to the table with our commodity group partners and get what needs to be done done."
Johnson went on to stress that crop insurance is included in the farm bill legislation. Thus, as negotiations over a new bill progress, these important programs could experience budget cuts.
"I think that many people overlook how important crop insurance is, but last year's drought highlighted its necessity for many farmers," she said. "The drought proved to us how important it is that we can explain why crop insurance is important to U.S. farmers not only to our representatives in Washington but also to consumers."
As president, Johnson strongly supports NCGA's work but reminds farmers that the association's grassroots nature requires each member to play an active role. By speaking together, they amplify one another's voices and increase the association's effectiveness exponentially.
"While NCGA does important working lobbying for farmers on the Hill and promoting their interests in the public sector, it is really just a shell game without the active support of our grassroots," said Johnson. "We need our members to be active and involved. Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen what it is going to take to make sure that our voices are heard. While we have great programs to accomplish that, like our communications programs such as the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, what we need now is for our members to make a solid, concrete show of support."
She then called on every member directly to take concrete action right now, again stressing the importance of reminding legislators of the key role crop insurance programs play in maintaining the security of our nation's farmers.
"Get your cell phone out and enter the number for the Capitol switchboard," she stated. "It is 202-224-3121. This will put your directly through to the office of your state's representation. Then, just explain to the person on the other end of the line, who will be an important staffer, the story of your farm. Talk about what it was like for you in 2012 and why the farm bill is important to you.
"When you are doing this, do not forget that crop insurance is going to be on the table in debates over the next five-year farm bill," she explained. "If crop insurance was important to you, your farm business and your family this past year, you need to explain why and tell your own personal story."
Johnson then added to her call, urging farmers to remain vigilant and open a face-to-face dialogue with their representatives.
"Beyond making calls, and maybe even more important, farmers need to make sure to see their legislators when they are back at home in your district," Johnson said. "Each of us needs to sit down and really talk with them and not just glad hand and feel recognized. You need to tell that personal story of what is important to you as a farmer and of what you need them to do to make sure you have help when you really need it."
She concluded by emphasizing the incredible ability to create positive change NCGA can have when its grassroots rise up together and demand that their representatives act in support of the men and women who provide our country with food, feed, fuel and fiber.
"I call each of our members to action in 2013 because I recognize how important each of your voices is and what a difference it can make," she concluded. "Together, we can work to build a strong safety net to support farmers in the coming years."