Farm bill top priority, new NAWG president says
By MATTHEW WEAVER
The new president of the National Association of Wheat Growers says the most pressing concern is completion of a new farm bill.
"To just sit there and keep haggling over the same issues, we hoped to have one done by 2012 and it wasn't achieved then," said Moccasin, Mont., farmer Bing Von Bergen. "Now we're starting from square one again. We spend a disproportionate share of our time working on this."
Maintaining the federal crop insurance model is a top priority. Tweaks could change the whole system, he said.
Von Bergen said it's important for producers to know their safety net so they can tell their bankers when they apply for operating loans.
"We need a farm bill so we know where we're going so we can plan for our five-year future," he said.
Von Bergen assumed the positions of president and interim CEO of the National Association of Wheat Growers during the 2013 Commodity Classic in Kissimmee, Fla.
The association is searching for a new CEO to replace Dana Peterson, who resigned due to personal circumstances in February.
Von Bergen said the search is just beginning. It will likely take three or four months to bring in a new CEO, he said.
While NAWG is focused on farm bill priorities, other key issues include transportation and regulations that might impact agriculture.
Von Bergen said his job is to make sure he follows through on NAWG's policy resolutions on such matters.
"Everything we do, we're stewards of the land," he said. "People think they can regulate that or contribute input into that, and regulations and input that aren't well thought out have some serious ramifications on agriculture."
Von Bergen thinks a satisfactory resolution to the farm bill issue is likely.
"Well, I'm a farmer, so that means I'm an optimist," he said. "I have a lot of faith in our political system. I believe the leaders know how important a farm bill is, not only to the agriculture community."
Von Bergen raises winter and spring wheat, barley, peas and hay on roughly 4,500 acres in Moccasin. He has been farming for 34 years.
Von Bergen succeeds Erik Younggren of Hallock, Minn., who now serves as past president. Hillsboro, Kan., farmer Paul Penner is first vice president; Washtucna, Wash., farmer Brett Blankenship is second vice president and Outlook, Mont., farmer Gordon Stoner is secretary-treasurer.