Grain group leader promises focus on farm bill efforts

By MATTHEW WEAVER

Capital Press

Wheat farmer Joseph Anderson considers himself a foot soldier, not an innovator.

Anderson took over last month as president of the Idaho Grain Producers Association.

"I'm going to offer some shoe leather, I guess," the Genesee, Idaho, farmer said when asked if he foresees big changes during his presidency.

Anderson-- not to be confused with Potlatch, Idaho, wheat farmer Joe Anderson, a member of the Idaho Wheat Commission -- began farming with his father in 1983. He raises winter and spring wheat and pulse crops on more than 4,000 acres in partnership with his brother.

Anderson said the association will focus on new farm bill efforts. Idaho will weigh in on discussions with the National Association of Wheat Growers.

"It's really important to reinforce to everybody that (the association) is very grassroots, and our agendas are the members' agendas and not our own," he said.

Increasing production costs and volatile prices make preservation of crop insurance and risk management a top priority, Anderson said.

"I think a lot of our growers are interested in seeing there's a little bit of CRP retained for the environmentally sensitive ground," he said. "A lot of our members would like to see the good producing land end up being farmed again."

The Conservation Reserve Program provides annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to farmers who take environmentally sensitive farmland out of production.

Asked to consider key issues that might arise, Anderson said environmental issues always tend to appear out of nowhere. The industry must find a response that's balanced and applicable, he said.

"I think it will be another challenging year to keep our research facilities fully funded and viable," Anderson said, noting he has a degree in agricultural economics and mechanization from the University of Idaho. He hopes to maintain the association's enhanced funding for the college budget again in 2012.

Anderson would like to see Idaho farmers consider increasing assessments. Growers are assessed 2 cents per bushel, and with inflation and increased costs, he thinks the industry should consider funding a larger portion of its research, reaching a contribution level comparable to the Washington and Oregon wheat industries. Oregon growers pay 5 cents a bushel.

The state legislature must approve an assessment increase, but growers must ask for it.

To meet the food needs of a growing world population, Anderson said farmers need to continually work to get incremental increases in varieties and production efficiency.

He said he'd also like to see the wheat industry continue to adopt high technology and eventually accept genetically modified wheat varieties.

"It's one of those things that's going to have to happen in the future," he said. "It's not just going to be a light switch."

Anderson urged growers to bring issues before the association.

"We need their support and membership," he said. "We want to be their voice in both Boise and Washington, D.C., in advocating to keep our businesses profitable."

Online

Idaho Grain Producers Association: www.idahograin.org

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