Iowa growers have a history of leadership within the National Corn Growers Association — including Kevin Ross of Pottawattamie County, Ron Litterer and Pam Johnson, all of whom have served as president of the organization in the past 20 years.
Earlier this month, Chris Edgington, who farms near St. Ansgar in north-central Iowa, became the most recent Iowan to carry the title of NCGA president. Edgington, who farms with his wife, son, dad and brother, recently spoke with members of the ag media to outline NCGA's policy priorities.
"Dad always believed in leaning on each other to get the job done. So we did,” Edgington said. “I soon learned to appreciate the simple satisfaction of working together on a common task. That life lesson probably helped prepare me for my position more than anything else.
“Just like our farm, my goal as president is to make NCGA the best team it can be. That starts with staying focused on our top priorities, and these include growing demand for our products, protecting profitability of our businesses, and building trust in our sustainable production methods."
Edgington went on to say that expanding use of higher ethanol blends is one of the big steps toward growing demand for corn. "The good news is, we made a bill to do just that," he said. "The bipartisan Next-Generation Fuels Act would require automakers to phase in higher levels of clean, low-carbon, high-octane ethanol. Working together, we can get this passed."
Another way to expand use of higher ethanol blends is allowing year-round E15 sales, Edgington said. The Clean Air Act prohibits the sale of gasoline with volatility exceeding 9 pounds per square inch, measured in Reid vapor pressure (RVP).
However, the act includes a waiver that increases the volatility limit by 1 pound per square inch for blends containing 10% ethanol. In 2019, EPA issued its rule that E15 could be sold year-round by extending a waiver of volatility limits. After this, oil refiners challenged the rule in the D.C. Court of Appeals, which overturned EPA's rule.
"Growth Energy filed a petition to the Supreme Court to take a look at that,” Edgington said. “That's the last avenue as I understand on the legal front. But we do have champions in Congress that are working to add a few words to the current legislation we have that will allow E15 to be sold year-round. It's great for the consumer; it's great for the environment. We will continue to work with whatever avenues are presented to us to continue to push the value of E15 on a year-round basis."
Another concern is rumors circulating surrounding lower renewable volume obligations set by the Renewable Fuel Standard — which has led to both Republicans and Democrats in Congress urging President Joe Biden to keep his campaign promises to uphold RFS requirements.
"It certainly is not going to help trust if [Biden] lowers [RVOs]. It goes against what he campaigned on. He said he was very much in favor of renewable fuels," Edgington said.
Earlier this year, Biden also outlined a target for the adoption of electric vehicles, calling for them to represent half of all new vehicle sales by 2030 — drawing response from biofuels groups, who have reminded the administration of the benefits of low carbon fuels such as ethanol.
"I understand people are excited about electric vehicles, and they have a place. But there are a lot of places they don't fit. Ethanol, biodiesel and renewable diesel are here and now," Edgington added. "They are an immediate ways to improve the environment. They are an immediate way to lower the cost to the consumer on the miles that they drive."
Opportunities to work together
Edgington also noted the possible loss of stepped-up basis, which allows a farmer to pay capital gains taxes only on a property's increase in value since it was inherited rather than paying the full increase in value since it was purchased by a deceased relative — and the potential for a higher maximum capital gains tax rate — as additional concerns for corn growers and NCGA.
Then there's the ongoing challenge of working with and sharing agriculture's story with policymakers.
"There will always be issues to work on — good ones, bad ones, others that fall some place in between," Edgington added. "I can't say for sure what they'll be, or when we'll be confronted with them, but I can promise that my approach to solving these problems hasn't changed a bit from what my dad taught me long ago. We'll tackle them together as a team, because working together works."