I attended the National Commodity Conference because it’s important to stay informed and network with other producers to help the industry work together as a whole. Unfortunately, there were only two growers for the sugar committee in attendance due to the time of year. We were fortunate to have Rick Gerstenberger, current president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association (ASGA) and Ray Van Driessche, Director of Community & Government Relations for Michigan Sugar and former ASGA president at our committee meeting to provide information & insight.
The discussion was mainly about the Farm Bill and the fate of sugar policy. The current feeling is that sugar will be left alone at this point. We also discussed the Antidumping Duty Suspension with Mexico. General consensus is that it is working and hopefully will be extended.
I really enjoyed all the speakers during the conference. The message from Zippy Duvall was encouraging as well as the information from John Newton, Chief Economist for AFBF. Getting to hear from USDA Undersecretary for Trade & Foreign Agriculture Affairs, Ted McKinney was an exceptional opportunity!
His message was positive and reassuring about trade agreements being accomplished. He feels that an agreement with Mexico is close and Canada not far behind. It may be one or two separate agreements. Once these trade deals are in place, he expects other countries to be more willing to facilitate other trade agreements. China may take a little longer and hopes that farmers will be patient.
A Glimpse of Michigan Agriculture
The tours were excellent! Michigan has very diverse production agriculture. We were able to tour an apple/cherry orchard & winery, a fresh vegetable farm raising cabbage, squash & sweet corn for local markets and a blueberry farm with packaging facility. It was very interesting to see these different operations. We also really enjoyed a trip to Lake Michigan. They call it the Michigan ocean because it is so vast!
Overall, it was a great opportunity to network and get first hand perspectives from some top industry and government officials. The most talked about subjects among the farmers were trade agreements and tariffs. Both were well addressed at this conference. The other most mentioned comment was requests for Montana to host because they all want to come!
Russel Steinbeisser and his wife Paula are sugar beet farmers from Sidney. They are both active in the Richland County Farm Bureau.