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Hill says mood positive at Iowa Farm Bureau convention

By Jean Caspers-Simmet
simmet@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 01/08/2014 3:55 PM

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DES MOINES —Iowa Farm Bureau President Craig Hill said the mood was positive at the annual meeting despite lower corn and soybean prices.

"We've had the golden age of agriculture since 2008, and it's been grand," Hill said during an interview with reporters. "People have had challenges with yield with the weather, but price opportunity has been good. Livestock has recovered, and we're making remarkable highs in the meats right now."

Hill said that farmers are accustomed to cycles in agriculture.

"They knew we would evolve to a price level that may not be profitable," Hill said. "That's what we do in agriculture, and even though prospects don't look good, there's always hope for improvement."

Hill said farmers will have to work harder on demand, especially with the export component facing competition and EPA's proposed Renewable Fuels Standard reduction.

During the upcoming legislative session, Farm Bureau will watch efforts to shift road and bridge repair costs to property taxes, Hill said.

Farm Bureau supports an increase in the fuel tax for road and bridge repairs.

Members also want additional cost-share funding for the Nutrient Reduction Strategy/Water Quality Initiative.

Hill said that the Nutrient Reduction Strategy is voluntary, but it's not optional.

"We think that sustainability and soil conservation are an ethic, a way of thinking," Hill said. "You can't assign laws that cause people to do the right thing. It has to be a conscious decision. We're asking farmers to look at their farm and design one more approach that they haven't been using in the past."

The EPA's proposal to reduce the renewable fuel standard will have an effect if it goes forward, Hill said. While nothing is in motion right now, he doesn't rule out litigation if no changes are made.

The proposal would cut ethanol to 13 billion gallons from the 14.4 billion goal for 2014 set in the renewable fuels standard, freeze biodiesel at 1.28 billion gallons and reduce cellulosic biofuels to 17 million from 1.75 billion gallons. EPA will accept comments on its proposal until Jan. 28.

Hill said Iowa is not likely to see an immediate reaction because, economically, ethanol is a very viable product.

"I don't expect closure of any of Iowa's 41 plants right away," Hill said. "In marginal parts of the country, you'll see some difficulty. I think cellulosic plants will have to rethink what their future is. We had a policy directive. It pointed us in a direction, and we were all striving for that. Now, EPA stepped in and altered the trajectory."