By Marsha Boswell, Kansas Wheat Director of Communications via NAWG
United States wheat farmers will be well represented going into the 2018 Farm Bill debate.
A third generation wheat farmer from western Kansas was elected president of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) today at a board meeting held in conjunction with the Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas.
The newly-elected president, David Schemm, farms with his wife, Lisa, in Wallace County, Kansas.
Jimmie Musick, a farmer from Southwest Oklahoma was elected Vice President. Texan Ben Scholz moved up the ranks of leadership to Treasurer. Gordon Stoner from Outlook, Montana, will continue to serve on the executive committee in the role of Past President. Dave Milligan from Cass City, Michigan, becomes the newest face in NAWG leadership with his election as Secretary.
President Schemm talks about what inspired him to become a leader in the wheat industry.
“I originally started with the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers,” said Schemm. “I really found a passion for what we do; engaging growers and trying to work for the benefit of growers on the Hill, not only at the state level, but also at the national level.”
Schemm continued, “We need to draw a bigger circle than just around ourselves, our family and our own operation. We need to have an influence outside of that.
“It’s been super rewarding and exciting to be able to engage on the growers’ behalf on a national level. I’m so pumped and so excited for the coming year.”
Schemm outlined some of NAWG’s priorities for the upcoming year.
“A couple of the clear priorities I have are making sure as commodities we are working together and we’re working for those commonalities that we can find. We’re all farmers. We can find so many commonalities between us and make sure that we get a good farm bill, a good risk management tool for our farmers out there, especially considering the challenging times we’re going through now.
“It’s not IF wheat will make an impact on the next farm bill,” Schemm emphasized. “Wheat WILL make an impact on the next farm bill. We will make sure that our voice is heard, and that we get the best tool we possibly can for wheat growers out there.”
As NAWG is setting priorities for the upcoming Farm Bill, they have been listening to the member-growers. “We’ve heard overwhelmingly that crop insurance is a top priority,” said Schemm. “Are there areas in crop insurance that need to be tweaked? Yeah, there are maybe some areas and that’s what we’re discussing. There’s got to be strong support going forward with that.
“The other area that we’re hearing is just some challenges that we’ve had with Title I and with the ARC and PLC programs. There’s been discrepancies in data, differences between counties that producers have found. So we’re exploring ways to try to find the right solutions.”
Other areas of concern to Schemm and NAWG leadership include trade and the labor force as it relates to immigration.
“We need to get our Secretary of Ag confirmed. We need to get our trade representative confirmed and in there, so that we can help to communicate the priorities that we have for bilateral agreements. What we don’t have is time. We’ve got other countries in the Pacific Rim and China that are poised and ready to start making these trade agreements that absolutely will be a loss to farmers in this country. Half of our U.S. wheat crop is exported and when we look at this past year with the production that farmers had but the historic low prices, trade becomes a huge issue for us.”
Funding for Foreign Market Development and Market Access Programs are another of NAWG’s top priorities. A 2016 econometric study of export demand commissioned by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) showed that these programs return a remarkable $24 in export gains for every additional $1 spend on foreign market development.
“It just ties right back in with that trade aspect. These are two programs that allow us opportunities to get out there and make contact with our end buyers and end users and educate them and truly show the value that our American farmer does produce wheat and the quality is there. We hope to see those programs not only maintain but actually increase, just simply because of dollar return on them.”
The future of the U.S. wheat and agriculture industries is important to Schemm. He has embraced technologies on his farm, using no-till on his dryland wheat and strip-till on his irrigated. “We’re trying to employ technology in all aspects of our operation,” Schemm said. One of his passions for the industry is to secure a bright future.
“My oldest son is planning on returning to the farm and working into the operation,” said Schemm. “We’re excited about the future of our operation and honestly really excited about the future of farming in general.”
Schemm and his fellow leaders at the National Association of Wheat Growers are listening to the wheat growers across the nation and taking those messages to elected leaders in Washington, D.C.
“I’m really looking forward to this coming year, being able to engage both farmers and legislators to truly make sure that wheat’s voice is heard,” said Schemm. “It WILL be heard. We’ve got some issues, we know that. We’ve got historic low plantings; we’ve got historic low prices. We know farmers are hurting out there. We’ve got ideas; we know there are ways we can improve our current risk management tools, and that is a message we’re going to be taking to the Hill, because we’ve heard from our farmers, and we look forward to making sure our message gets communicated.”