COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO, US — The National Grain and Feed Association, celebrating its 125th anniversary, has emerged from one of its most challenging of years stronger than ever and with a renewed energy and focus on the opportunities ahead, JoAnn Brouillette, managing partner and president, Demeter LP, Fowler, Ind., and chair of the NGFA, told association members gathered at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and participating online on June 3.
“I’ve been inspired and proud to witness the way our members stepped up to continue providing essential services during what we all hope was a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic, ensuring that grain, feed and processing industry operations continued to feed consumers here at home and around the globe,” Brouillette said.
Even as the pandemic raged, and much attention had to be directed to resolving supply chain disruptions, the NGFA was able to score considerable progress in other priority areas in 2020, Brouillette said.
The NGFA in 2020 partnered with National Grain and Feed Digital Solutions to oversee the Barge Digital Transformation system, which was expected to digitize up to 100,000 negotiable barge bills of lading that NGFA members process each year. This platform was being used to transmit bills of lading for movements of corn, DDGS, soybeans and wheat on the Mississippi River.
The NGFA lobbied successfully to secure more robust federal funding to improve inland waterways and ports, as well as regulatory consistency for truckers hauling agricultural commodities.
Working with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the NGFA secured a final rule on speculative position limits. The association also spearheaded enactment of legislation to reauthorize the US Grain Standards Act.
The association launched new educational tools to enhance workplace safety for grain industry employees and farmer-customers, including new safety training modules on engulfment-prevention and other topics funded by the National Grain and Feed Foundation.
“Most recently, NGFA led a consortium of industry groups in partnering with the Association of American Railroads and its Railinc subsidiary to launch an online resource allowing agricultural shippers to identify the last contents hauled in rail cars to continue to ensure the highest food safety standards are met and to assist compliance with rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act,” Brouillette added.
Looking forward, Brouillette said the NGFA’s efforts on trade will be directed at continuing the China phase one agreement while working to foster a more open commercial trading environment between the United States and China. The NGFA also will encourage the Biden administration to engage in trade negotiations with Southeast Asian countries, including considering reengaging in the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord.
Regarding North American trade, Brouillette said the NGFA is working with other organizations to address recent developments in the US trading relationship with Mexico, including the Mexican government’s intention to ban imports of genetically modified corn.
Also, the NGFA has encouraged the Biden administration and Congress to renew the president’s trade promotion authority, which is scheduled to expire July 1, to enable the United States to engage in additional negotiations to expand US agricultural trade.
Brouillette said as the Biden administration implements a government-wide effort to address climate change, the NGFA will demonstrate the positive contribution of targeted, working lands conservation practices on sequestering carbon, and will continue to oppose efforts to idle productive farmland at the expense of crop production.
On transportation, the NGFA will seek to secure $7 billion to finance congressionally authorized inland waterway navigation projects, including long-delayed lock-and-dam projects on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Waterway system.
“In its leadership role on rail policy, NGFA will work with the Surface Transportation Board to implement more rail-to-rail competition,” Brouillette said. “NGFA and a coalition of shipper associations have urged the STB to conduct a thorough review of the proposed merger involving the Kansas City Southern and the Canadian National Railway. We have emphasized that the STB should review mergers using regulations that require railroads to prove a merger would improve competition and avoid service disruptions — and stipulate merger conditions to see that happens.”
The NGFA’s motor carrier policy work will be aimed at expanding truck capacity for agriculture, including expanding and clarifying the agricultural exemption under the US Department of Transportation’s hours-of-service rules, creating a pathway for commercial driver’s license holders aged 18 to 20 to drive on Interstate highways and across state lines, and creating a truck weight pilot program to authorize 91,000-lb trucks with six axles on interstate highways, Brouillette said.
And as the Biden administration develops a COVID-19 emergency workplace safety standard, the NGFA will communicate with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as part of “The Employers COVID-19 Prevention Coalition,” which will highlight reasonable prevention practices for employers, Brouillette explained.
Brouillette said the NGFA will mark its 125th anniversary with a “series of initiatives focused “on lofty goals for the future of the industry and the release of the first-ever NGFA tagline – ‘Transforming America’s Harvest.’”
“This new tagline highlights and captures the noble purpose NGFA’s member companies perform day-in and day-out in transforming American farmers’ bounty into safe, nutritious, sustainable and affordable human and animal food,” Brouillette said. “Throughout the year, NGFA will celebrate ‘Transforming America’s Harvest’ with initiatives that focus on the industry’s future and how best to position it to continue enhancing the economic performance of US agriculture in a global open market environment.”