Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 - American Bankers' Day

Class in Lafayette Park on walking tour with John Blanchfield

Today we went to the American Bankers Association (ABA) and were met by John Blanchfield and Seaver Sowers.  John and Seaver are ag banking specialists for the ABA. They guided us through an opening discussion outlining history and operations of the ABA The ABA was founded in 1875 and is an advocate for the banking industry.

Dr. Keith Leggett, Senior Economist for the ABA, identified 3 key messages he wished to communicate. 
  1. The worst (of the recession) is over.
  2. Sustained recovery is 5-6 years away.
  3. Stimulus and budget deficit are issues that cannot be ignored.
Current problems in the housing industry will provide significant challenges to the economic recovery.

Dana Brooks, Senior VP for the National Milk Producers Federation, spoke of proposed legislation that would provide a margin based insurance program for the dairy industry.  This would replace the current priced based system.

Our next presenter was Dana Peterson, CEO of National Association of Wheat Growers.  She informed us that wheat provides approximately 20% of the world's consumed calories and is grown in nearly every country.  She spoke of the timeline for developing new wheat varieties, which is 10-13 years and most of the seed research is done by land grant universities.

Colin Woodall was our next speaker.  He is a lobbyist for the National Cattlemens Beef Association (NCBA).  EPA regulation was his primary concern, specifically centered around proposed dust legislation, ammonia concerns and watershed runoff.  He also spoke of trade, technology and transportation issues facing the beef industry.

We broke for lunch at noon, which was kindly provided by the Farmer Mac organization.

Dallas Tonsager, an Olham, SD native and Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development, discussed his current responsibilities resulting from his recent appointment by the Obama administration.  Rural Development provides small communities with access to capital for a variety of projects such as hospitals, housing and public utilities.

Katy Ziegler-Thomas, representative for Growth Energy, spoke of her role as an advocate for the ethanol industry. She stated that out of 187 current ethanol lobbyists in Washington, D.C., only 16 were lobbying in support of the industry.  This has made it difficult to win support for pro-ethanol legislation.

Chandler Goule, VP of Government Relations for the National Farmers Union, spoke of the organization's support for the proposed GIPSA legislation as well as uncertainty regarding a possible new farm bill.  He spoke passionately about the NFU's unwavering support for renewable fuels and his frustration regarding the recent budget cuts affecting agriculture.  Mr. Goule stated that agriculture received 22% of the proposed budget cuts despite being only 2% of the federal budget. 

Next up was John Doggett from the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).  The top 4 concerns of NCGA were:
  1. Support for ethanol.
  2. Trade agreements with Korea, Columbia and China.
  3. Uncertainty regarding the farm bill.
  4. Regulatory actions proposed by the EPA.
He spoke of the shortage of qualified legislative aids with agricultural knowledge and the importance of public service from our young people back home.

Brian Dierlam gave a very interesting presentation regarding Cargill's view of current ag issues.  Animal welfare was a major concern for the company and a driving force in their decision to allow the Oprah show access to one of their beef processing facility.  He spoke of the positive response Cargill received from the show and how he believed it accurately represented their operations.  He challenged the class to guess what was the only part of a beef carcass that was taken to the landfill after processing.  After many guesses, the class conceded and was told it was the..... tail switch!

Blachfield and Sowers closed the day with several fearless predictions. 
  1. There would be not one, but several, pending government shutdowns over the budget issues.
  2. Interest rates will be going up.
  3. The Republican presidential nominee will be relative unknown.
  4. Stability of mid-west agriculture will "drive the new farm bill policy bus".
  5. No new farm bill in 2012 but rather an extension of the 2008 farm bill.
  6. Money does matter and ag is not exempt from possible budget cuts.
  7. The USDA will get skinny and close several county offices in favor of more web-based operations.
The final activity of the day was a walking tour of Lafayette Square by local historian, John Blachfield.  Class VI would like to thank John Blanchfield, Seaver Sowers and the American Bankers Association for their hospitality and continued support of the SDARL program.

Thank you,
Travis Ellison and Mike Reecy

Dr. Keith Leggett, Sr. Economist, American Bankers Assoc.

Class at ABA

Class at ABA

Dan, Dallas Tonsager, Under Secretary, Rural Development, Codi Mills

Katy Ziegler-Thomas, Growth Energy

John Blanchfield and Seaver Sowers of ABA

Head Chef at Smith & Wollensky with Michelle and Rae Jean

Class VI at White House

Dan, John and Seaver


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