I know what you’re thinking and, no, the commodity classic is not a sporting event. Rather it’s the annual convention for the Kansas Corn Growers Association, the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and the Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association.
The featured guest for the afternoon was Sen. Pat Roberts, of Kansas, the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
It didn’t take long into Roberts’ appearance at the 2011 Kansas Commodity Classic for me to realize something: Farmers like this guy. One by one farmers and ranchers in attendance at the Highland Convention Center in Great Bend stood up and, before asking a question, thanked the senator for coming. A standing ovation followed at lunch.
There were a couple big issues Roberts addressed with the crowd of about 150 people — agriculture research and crop insurance.
The string of actions Roberts presented seemed logical. Extreme world population growth is impending and will lead to more mouths to feed, which necessitates more food production. In what he described as a “moral issue,” providing funding for agriculture research is essential for the U.S. to not only feed the country, but also the world. Roberts admitted that with the country’s current budget issues, agriculture sector funds will most likely be diminished. Roberts said, though, that he will “guard every dime of federal spending.” Despite the budget issues, there are promising signs in research.
“You’ve got an awful lot of good land grant schools who are making the kind of research that will allow these countries to sustain themselves and allow us to produce a whole heck of a lot more,” Roberts said.
Federal crop insurance is yet another program facing budget cuts. Roberts however, is optimistic about the future.
“Crop insurance is probably one of the four programs we can defend the easiest, because people understand insurance,” he said. “I spent the better part of my adult life working this, so I’m not giving up one inch.”
Administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency, a subsidized multi-peril federal insurance program is available to most farmers. As a result of the Federal Crop Insurance Act, growers with insurable crops are offered catastrophic coverage. Farmers then are allowed to purchase additional insurance appropriate for their situation.
Farming in general is an inherently risky business, making insurance all the more important. Drought in Kansas, as well as harsh weather this winter, could highlight the importance of crop insurance as many wheat farmers face low yields.
For example, farmer Gary Millershaski yields an average of 40 bushels on his wheat land in Lakin, Kan. If his yield this year falls below 65 percent of that average, his crop insurance will make up the difference to that percentage level.
For many on hand, the Kansas Commodity Classic was a taste of what’s to come. The National Commodity Classic will convene March 3 - 5 in Tampa, Fla.