Ag Business Leaders Look Forward in Kansas City

September 26th, 2022 – On Monday, the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City held their annual Ag Outlook Forum, and about 220 industry professionals gathered for the first fully in-person Forum since 2019. The presenters and panelists covered a wide swath of subject areas in agriculture; with trade, global grain supply, and political changes absorbing most of the focus.

An early presenter on Monday was Aaron Annable, the acting Consul General of Canada in Chicago, reflecting on the current relationship between the US and Canada, and how, despite the supply chain issues and COVID restrictions, 2021 saw a record amount of mutual trade across the border. Trade that should grow, as he also announced that all remaining COVID restrictions to travel will be lifted in Canada on October 1st, which importantly includes the border crossing vaccination requirement.

Annable also discussed energy and mentioned that Canada is on track to grow oil/gas production by 300,000 barrels per day by the end of the year; though that is being balanced by a tax on carbon, currently priced at $50/ton but headed to $175/ton by 2030 to help contain GHG emissions. And emissions talk didn’t end there.

Over lunch, Jeff Simmons, CEO at Elanco pressed the message he’s relating to policy makers; climate, calories, and choice are all connected by livestock, so getting livestock policy right can go a long way to solving climate issues and hunger/obesity, while allowing consumers to choose quality meats. The focus from Simmons wasn’t carbon, but rather methane a more potent greenhouse gas. His priority is for beef and dairy production, which accounts for about 6% of methane emissions, to use technology (diet amendments, genetics, additives) to reduce methane emissions by 25% by 2030. In his accounting, that would be enough to stop or slow warming. But time is short to make this argument, as policy decisions are being made now.

The afternoon portion of the program featured three panel discussions, with several experts who have been heard on AOA in the past. First, the broad ag economy was under discussion with Seth Meyer, USDA Chief Economist; Erin Borror of the USMEF; Nate Kauffman from the KC Federal Reserve; and Kanlaya Barr, Director of Economics for John Deere and the overall theme was cautious optimism. All panelists celebrated the rising farm income of the last two years, but concerns about rising input costs, growing global acreage, and policy had them nervous about 2023 and beyond.

Then, a panel discussed the Black Sea turmoil; with friend of the show Arlan Suderman of StoneX providing updates on the Ukrainian ag sector and its export potential. Daniel Whitley, USDA FAS Director discussed the European regulatory model for agriculture, the EU Farm to Fork plan, and how it isn’t working on the ground. He focused on the recent Climate Smart Partnerships from USDA as an alternative way to encourage production and be mindful of climate goals. Christine Cochran, from SNAC International -the snack foods association described the impact of the Ukraine war on the snack sector as huge, because it upended the global market for sunflower oil – a non-gmo, no taste veg oil that most snack food producers used. That created tremendous problems for companies, as most of the alternative veg oils were either from GMO crops, or their non-GMO status couldn’t be verified; which meant that any company that advertised their snacks as “GMO Free” had to change the label; and with pandemic delays, it was taking upwards of 20 weeks to secure new labeling.

All these issues came home in the final panel, as past Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst had a back-and-forth conversation with former MN Representative Colin Peterson about the ’23 Farm Bill; and one of the facts that stood out to me was that there are 26 Democrat members of the House Ag Committee, and only 7 volunteered to be there. The remaining 21 were drafted by party leadership. Peterson had grave concerns about the lack of representation from the left in rural areas; and both parties are going to be grappling with lots of new members following the November midterms. Peterson’s expectation is for an ‘evolutionary’ farm bill in the next Congress, but it’s a long way to go to get there.

  • Mike Pearson

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