County leadership updated on local and national ag policy issues

Indiana Farm Bureau recently hosted county Farm Bureau leadership for its first Ag Policy Outlook.

The event, which was held in June, featured Bob Young, American Farm Bureau Federation’s chief economist and deputy executive director, and Mary Kay Thatcher, AFBF senior director of congressional relations. The event’s guest speakers joined INFB to present the latest details on the national agriculture economy and the farm bill.

Randy Kron, INFB president, opened the event, welcoming guests and introducing the core topics of the day including fair trade, regulatory reform, the economy, rural healthcare and broadband.

“Strong affordable risk management tools must be preserved in the next farm bill,” said Kron. “We must be credible advocates for effective and fair trade policies. We also need regulatory and tax reforms that increase economic growth. That’s where our staff experts and our guest speakers from AFBF help in our efforts.”

AFBF’s Bob Young shared his perspective on the health of the overall U.S. economy as well as the agricultural economy. He provided a detailed update and forecast for gross domestic products, exports, imports and more.

“The U.S. economy wants to do well, but there is uncertainty,” said Young. “I think farm income will be better in 2017 than 2016. I’m not speaking to each individual farmer’s income, but the industry as a whole.”

AFBF’s Mary Kay Thatcher is a well-known lobbyist on Capitol Hill and a veteran of numerous farm bills. She provided a detailed update and outlook in anticipation of the 2018 farm bill.

“One thing that will push the farm bill along is the 2018 election,” said Thatcher. "But crop insurance will once again have the biggest target on its back.”

A panel discussion on challenges such as broadband and health care access in rural communities closed the day. That panel included Indiana Rep. Sharon Negele; Cullen McCarty, executive vice president of Smithville Communications; Don Kelso, executive director of the Indiana Rural Healthcare Association; and Andy VanZee, vice president of the Indiana Hospital Association.

Through questions and comments, INFB members expressed the urgent need for access to broadband and health care in their own rural communities.

“House and Senate health care bills will have a major impact on rural communities,” said Van Zee. “Insurance loss could close rural hospitals and make it hard to recruit providers. One in 10 Hoosiers could end up without healthcare.”

“Advocacy requires dedication, focus and a clear understand of the issues,” said Kron. “Our program focuses on the real economic and policy challenges that farmers are facing today.”