Ribbon Cuttings and Trade Deals: Kentucky Grain Farmers Have Much to Celebrate
Ray Allan Mackey
Happy Fall, my fellow farmers! Despite the lack of rain in much of the state, the last two weeks have brought us much to celebrate, particularly the opening of the Grain and Forage Center of Excellence and the U.S. – Japan Trade Agreement.
Thanks to the vision and support of Kentucky’s farm community, the Grain and Forage Center of Excellence officially opened with great fanfare. I was humbled to have the opportunity to address the crowd to thank them for their cooperation in moving this project forward and share how extension and the University of Kentucky have shaped not only my life but that of my family. I know many other farmers can say the same.
I am proud that our farmers decided to double down on our programs amid an era where many states are allowing their land grant research and extension programs to erode from lack of funding. The shifting priorities in many other places are leading to their loss of key research positions, personnel, and informational resources that are vital to farm survival. Thank you, Kentucky, for recognizing the importance of our extension educators and researchers and the value they provide to our economy. I’m proud of our decision to stick to our roots and to develop this Center of Excellence to create technology and knowledge for farmers today and generations of farmers to come.
Speaking for my fellow leaders, KyCorn also knows how vital the need is to enhance corn demand in these times of depressed prices. Several activities last month were heavily focused on moving corn and corn products to overseas markets. Our growers and staff worked to build relationships with foreign trading partners in meetings both here at home and abroad. We spent additional time in Washington, D.C. explaining trade priorities in non-corn Congressional Districts throughout the country.
Early last month, our executive director, Laura Knoth, traveled to Japan as part of the U.S. Meat and Export Federation’s Heartland Team to strengthen trade relationships, specifically regarding U.S. beef and pork. I had the opportunity to visit with Commissioner Quarles and Kentucky Cattlemen’s Dave Maples two years ago. On September 25, the White House announced the US-Japan Trade Agreement. This achievement has been a core priority for its potential to enhance trade of corn products: ethanol, beef, and pork. Under the agreement, tariffs on all these products will be reduced or phased out. Specific details will be provided here when they are available.
This good news, however, does not mean we won’t continue to pursue more trade opportunities. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, remains a top policy priority. KyCorn staff spent some time in Washington, DC in mid-September to keep momentum on passage of USMCA. Our staff visited dozens of non-corn district offices to gauge support and then report back to the National Corn Growers. Mostly neutral feedback was received, as expected during a negotiation, but the message was delivered, and some new offices were identified that could be helpful to create urgency in the working group and House leadership.
Currently, the process is in the hands of a nine-member working group of Democrats who are negotiating with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on a handful of non-agricultural issues. Resolution of those issues are necessary before Speaker Pelosi will place the bill on the floor.
Lastly, KyCorn recently hosted a team of port owners, port managers, merchandisers, and government trade officials from Guatemala to showcase Kentucky’s corn production capabilities as well as our infrastructure to transport corn while maintaining grain quality. The team spent two days visiting a Gavilon facility at Eddyville Riverport, Hopkinsville Elevator, Commonwealth Agri-Energy, and Sisk Farms. I want to thank Laura and Adam Andrews for all their work, as well as commend the many people who took time to help us build relationships with these potential customers.
The first few days of fall have sure been busy for KyCorn, and I hope that our grain growers can breathe a small sign of relief as they finish harvest knowing that we are working on your behalf.