Corn growers are among thousands gathered in Kissimmee, Fla. for this year's Commodity Classic. (Photo by Carrie Muehling/WJBC)
By Carrie Muehling
KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Farmers from across the country have headed south this week for the 2013 Commodity Classic.
The combined meeting of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers and National Sorghum Producers is underway in Kissimmee, Fla.
Registrations for the event are on pace to possibly break the attendance record of 6,000 people. The event has already broken a few records with more than 1,000 trade show booths and more than 1,000 first time attendees.
“I think it’s all about just the energy, the dynamic leadership of the folks that are involved. Folks know that Classic is the place to come for the top leaders in row crop agriculture. The top producers are here, the top companies are here. The companies that come bring their top people,” said Fred Stemmy, vice president of marketing with the NCGA.
Farmer leaders will sit down during the event to talk about supply and demand, dynamics in Washington, D.C. and to propose resolutions.
“It will be a great opportunity for those grassroots leaders to come and talk about policy, be it biotechnology, ethanol, trade, research, production and stewardship… really a lot of top issues,” said Stemmy. “But those state delegates bring issues from their local level up to the national level and are very passionate about setting policy for the way forward.”
That discussion includes nearly 130 delegates from 28 states. Illinois farmer Kent Kleinschmidt of Emden is one of those delegates. His priorities include putting pressure on legislators to get a new farm bill written. River transportation another focus to upgrade lock and dam systems on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. Kleinschmidt complimented the Army Corps of Engineers on blasting rock pinnacles earlier this year when the Mississippi River levels were low. But he believes the government needs to be more proactive.
“Seems like as a federal government we are reacting to specific things as they come up, but we haven’t been able to think ahead like we have in the past, maybe. The budget concerns are always there,” said Kent Kleinschmidt, chairman of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board. “It’s really hard to get leglislators to say that we need to start investing in the infrastructure to keep our competitive advantage we’ve had for decades over other countries, and we don’t want to lose that, but slowly we are.”
He mentioned the Panama Canal expansion and infrastructure improvements in South America as examples. Kleinschmidt is also concerned also about inputs coming up the river for agriculture and other industries.
“The quick selling point to me is that every barge tow replaces a whole lot of trains and semi trucks, so it’s a safety issue, too,” said Kleinschmidt. “It’s a very efficient way to move bulk commodities.”
At the same time, he understands budget constraints are many when it comes to capital projects. Kleinschmidt would also like to see some attention to ethanol and defending the Renewable Fuels Standard.
Stemmy said corn growers are pretty unified on policy outside of a few regional differences. Most are focused on the importance of risk management and hope to strengthen crop insurance and other risk management tools in the transition away from direct payments.
Carrie Muehling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rita Frazer with the RFD Radio Network contributed to this story.