Swan Song

ASGA gathers in the Magic Kingdom

Published in the April 2012 Issue Published online: Apr 13, 2012 Tyler J. Baum
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The 2012 ASGA Annual Meeting was held in February at the Swan Resort in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

On the topic of the 2012 Farm Bill, Jeff Harrison from Combest, Sell & Associates says legislation this year will be "thin gruel."

He believes the Senate Ag Committee and possibly the House Ag Committee will "march along in regular order" to put legislation on a must-pass vehicle the Farm Bill can "pop a ride on."

He exhorts the industry to work together with other agriculture industries to make sure this is passed.

"The challenge that we've got, in order to catch a ride on the bus-even if we've got the proper fare-we've got to all be at the bus stop. And that means all the aggies have got to come together."

But he adds a word of caution:

"If you read in the paper that the Office of Management and Budget is telling the CBO what they're going to do next January in terms of sequestration, that's when you need to worry, because the moment that happens, the Congressional Budget Office is going to revise its baseline and they're going to lower spending based upon that instruction."

His speech was divided up by remarks via satellite from House Ag Committee Chair Congressman Frank Lucas (R-OK), as well as DVD-recorded remarks from Senate Ag Committee Chair Congresswoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). Lucas said they're basically starting over with the process, and Stabenow reminded growers that agriculture is still the bright spot in the economy.

In ASGA Executive Vice President Luther Markwart's closing remarks before the President's Luncheon, he says there are four things the industry will focus on this next year:

1) Farm Bill. He says, "What you need to know now is, `What do we do?'" Two weeks after the annual meeting, a lobbying blitz of 322 offices was scheduled to educate members of Congress who have no sugarbeets or sugarcane in their district about how important this industry is for jobs in this economy, and how it runs at no cost to the taxpayer.

2) Bio-technology. "We're at a very good spot right now," he says, exhorting growers to continue to do what they did last year in complying with requirements under the partial deregulation.

3) Trade. He brought up the trans-Pacific partnership negotiations, a free-trade agreement with Australia, Brunei, Chilie, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

"The one thing we have to watch is that they don't re-open the Australian free-trade agreement and give Australia free access to our market, or they don't take their sugar and move it to another country, blend it with cocoa or some other ingredient and then ship that into our country," he says. "That is as big as the Farm Bill this year."

4) Risk Management. He says, "We know that your re-plant coverage is insufficient-we're working to boost it up, and we're hopeful that we can get that all resolved by the end of April."

During the President's Luncheon, goodbyes were said to retiring board members David Bird, Neil Whitner and Steve Ezved. New board members include James Schroder from Sterling, Colo., and Shane Strecker from Bighorn, Mont.

New ASGA officers include 2012-2014 President Kelly Erickson from Hallock, Minn.; John Snyder from Worland, Wyo., as Vice President; Don Steinbeisser, Jr., Sidney, Mont., as Treasurer; and Russ Mauch from Barney, N.D., as Past President. Mauch used flight metaphors in his farewell address as president, and Erickson explained 10 fundamental principles to succeed in an increasingly hostile environment: Unity, Vision, Commitment, Focus, Talent and Expertise, Preparation, Courage, Persistence, Communication and Humility.

During the luncheon, Ervin Schlemmer from Joliet, Mont., accepted the 2012 Sugar Producer Grower of the Year award.