After challenging year, corn farmers look for good news in 2020

Dan Nerud

As the end of 2019 draws closer, Nebraska Corn Growers President Dan Nerud of Dorchester said it was a challenging year on many levels. However, there were positive things to take out of the last year. Looking back on the more challenging aspects of 2019, he said those troubles actually began last year.

“It started with the wet fall of 2018,” he said. “The wet conditions continued right into 2019 with the spring flooding and late snowstorms. Those challenges have continued up to now with the problem of getting our crops harvested. We feel for everyone who’s going through an extended harvest.”

While farmers are struggling to harvest their crops in many areas of Nebraska, as well as across farm country, farmers in the Dorchester area have had good luck getting their crops out of the field.

“There’s very little left around here,” Nerud said. “I don’t know of any beans still out in fields. There are a few cornfields left to go yet. I’d say we’re between 95-97% done in this area.”

There’s no question that 2019 has been a severe test for Nebraska farmers. However, Nerud said farmers are resilient and will find whatever positives they can.

“You look at things you did right,” he said, “and you take things that didn’t go as well and try to improve for next year.”

Nerud said 2019 wasn’t completely without a “win” for agriculture. Year-round E15 ethanol was a big victory for corn farmers.

“Customers can now buy year-round E15,” he said. “What a huge thing for farmers.”

He hopes for more good news to come.

“Another thing we’re working on that could be a big win for us from a state and national standpoint is the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement,” Nerud said. “Canada and Mexico are very eager for us to get this thing passed. That will be a tremendous win when we can get that through.”

He also points out that the last day to comment on restoring the gallons of E15 lost under the Renewable Fuels Standard because of a record number of small refinery waivers handed out by the EPA is Friday, Nov. 29. To make it easier, people who want to submit comments can go right to the Nebraska Corn Growers website, www.nebraskacorn.org, and there will be a place to submit comments.

“I think farmers have gotten better in recent years about making comments to their elected officials,” he said after some thought. “That doesn’t mean it couldn’t be better. Technology has made commenting to elected officials so much more convenient.

“One comment won’t go very far,” Nerud added, “but there is strength in numbers. When people in Washington start getting dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of comments on a single topic, they take notice in a big way.”

You can’t talk agriculture in 2019 without talking about trade disputes. The dispute between the U.S. and China has gone on for over a year, with the two largest economies in the world still trying to sign a “phase one” trade deal that involves China purchasing U.S. agricultural commodities.

“The biggest frustration right now is we keep hearing stories in the media about how close we are to a deal,” he said, “and then it pulls back again. Until we have that final document signed, these reports are just making people leery. The whole thing definitely hurts us. We just want a chance to have free and fair trade.”

The Trump administration has doled out aid money to help farmers recover at least a percentage of their losses from the trade war. Nerud said farmers don’t want aid, they just want to trade with our longtime customers.

While things like trade with China and the USMCA agreement are works in progress, there are also things the Nebraska Corn Growers are working on at the state level. The first thing he mentioned is property taxes. The Corn Growers are working with senators and representatives to make the property tax burden more equitable in the state.

“We also have something called the ‘Prime Program,’” he said. “It’s designed for new producers who want to improve every aspect of their operations. Applications for the program are due Jan. 24. The group meets three times a year.”

They also have an upcoming D.C. leadership trip March 9-13. It’s open to any member and their spouse, with applications due on Jan. 10.

“We take members to D.C. and meet with some of our representatives and give them a firsthand look at what happens out there on Capitol Hill,” he said.

The Nebraska Corn Growers Association will finish 2019 with their annual meeting Dec. 17 at Grand Island.

Chad Smith can be reached at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.

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