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Current events unite agriculture

Written by Ernie Verslues on .

All of agriculture benefits from a united voice for agriculture. Whether it’s weight limits for trucks hauling agricultural loads or “ditch the rule” efforts to oppose EPA, farmers and ranchers share the same goals. MFA counts on mainstream commodity organizations, Mo-Ag and Farm Bureau for representation in the political arena. A united voice can present essential facts to members of the public and government on agricultural issues.

That’s why all of us at MFA urge customers, regardless of which state in our territory, to join their commodity groups as well as Farm Bureau. Again, agriculture is best represented by a united front.

The face of federal regulation today, unfortunately, is the Environmental Protection Agency. This powerful agency is dead set on redefining the waters of the United States and regulating the redefined areas as agency officials see fit—no matter how many practical concerns are expressed. After a “listening” period last winter, the agency moved ahead with finalizing the rule in late May.

Despite wide-ranging testimony to the contrary, EPA insists its rule is not “economically significant.” Still, the rule will potentially give EPA jurisdiction over much more land—on farmers’ and ranchers’ property.

Farm Bureau, Mo-Ag and the commodity groups have been vocal and effective on this issue. As those organizations have repeatedly pointed out, EPA’s regulation “would significantly” expand the definition of the “waters of the United States.” The old standard of “navigable” waters is out; almost all water (and land) is in.

Watch this issue. It will not go away voluntarily. Support Farm Bureau and your commodity groups to help rein in the EPA. Remember, as Farm Bureau puts it, “It is about exerting ever-more control over land.”

The other issues of merit are trade and transportation. Both are closely related. Trade and transportation are essential to profitable agriculture.

The latest statistics I’ve seen show in 2014 U.S. farmers and ranchers exported more than $152 billion worth of farm goods. That’s up from $115 billion in 2010. Since the United States sells more food and fiber than we import, agriculture provides a positive trade balance. As commodity leaders like to quip: 90 percent of agriculture’s customers live outside the United States.

Thirty-one percent of gross farm income in America comes directly from exports. CattleFax estimates that exports added more than $300 per head of value for U.S. cattle producers in 2013.

One in every three U.S. farm acres is planted for export. On the livestock front, one-fifth of total pounds produced in the United States goes overseas.

Grain and meat cannot make their way to international markets without a strong U.S. transportation infrastructure. Railroads, highways and river networks move commerce. Limiting weight on trucks hauling grain leads to inefficiencies. More trucks are needed.

Additionally, the supply of trucking is not keeping pace with demand. To make the issue even more important, consider the volume of grain harvested last fall. MFA handled 72 million bushels. With U.S. consumption stable, this grain needs to find markets overseas.

To help with the tremendous volume of grain, products and supplies necessary to agricultural production, the Soy Transportation Coalition, with a big assist from the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, is urging Congress to increase truck capacity.

A key finding of the coalition’s study is, “allowing six-axle, 97,000-pound semis will result in 1.2 million fewer truck trips, 5.5 million fewer gallons of fuel consumed, 56,000 fewer tons of carbon dioxide emissions, and between $11 million and $28 million in reduced fuel costs.”

To allay concerns of even larger trucks on highways, the weight increase can be accomplished safely. As the Soy Transportation Coalition study points out, “these are not just theories and studies, but results that have been proven by real-world experience in other countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom that have implemented higher truck weight limits and seen a reduction in truck-related accidents.”

The impact on roads of a six-axle, 97,000-pound semi is less than a five-axle, 80,000-pound semi. This past fall, MFA was able to load barges on the Missouri River for the first time in a decade, moving more than 840,000 bushels during a crucial timeframe. That equated to 210 fewer rail cars or 923 semis that could be available for other uses. We need to keep our waterways navigable.

Why? Because the customer cost of moving a metric ton of soybeans from Davenport, Iowa, to Shanghai is $567.09 while the cost of moving that ton from Mato Grosso, Brazil, to Shanghai is $597.06. U.S. international competitiveness depends on infrastructure.

Livestock or row crop, we are all in this together

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