The Game in Washington that Rivals the Super Bowl

Brooke S. Appleton

Feb 15, 2024  |  Today's News |  ICGA |  Legislation & Regulation

This is the best February since last February. That’s because, like this time last year, my beloved Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl.

Like millions of Americans, I was glued to the television during the recent game. While some members of my family love to talk and engage in Monday-morning quarterbacking during football games (my Mom even paces), I tend to watch silently and intently, assessing every strategic move the Chiefs and their opponents make.

Strategy is critical to winning; whether it’s football games or the work my team and I do every day on the political field that is the nation’s capital. Just as a coach looks at old plays of the opposing team, we look at all the potential plays that could be used by the various interests in Washington as we work to advance the policies that are important to corn growers.


And, boy, do we have our work cut out for us this year, as there are enough moving parts and unprecedented events to make even Andy Reid and Travis Kelce run for the hills.


One of our major goals is to get a comprehensive farm bill, which includes our priorities, through both chambers of Congress and signed by the president before the current expiration in September. We also want to advance the Next Generation Fuels Act; extend consumer access to E15 through the summer months; and see the U.S. hold trading partners accountable to their commitments.

To accomplish these goals, we must navigate a Congress that not only has deep inter-party divisions but also increasingly fierce intra-party disagreements.


The intense disagreements between Democrats and Republicans have helped fuel delays in the government funding bills. Ideally, these would have been signed into law before the Oct. 1, 2023, fiscal year began. Instead, a stopgap was approved that punted funding for four government agencies (including the U.S. Department of Agriculture) to March 1 and eight other agencies to March 8.


Congress must clear the deck on government funding before they will be able to move onto the farm bill and other corn grower priorities.


Leaders in the Senate and House have agreed to a $1.66 trillion government funding framework, but the details of how the money will be allocated will continue to be a challenge.

Supplemental funding legislation for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan has further exposed intra-party disagreements within the Republican Party. As of this writing, the Republicans in the Senate joined their Democratic counterparts to pass $95 billion in supplemental foreign funding. But Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has said the legislation will go nowhere unless funding for border security is included in the bill.

To put an exclamation point on all of this, the House voted to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The last time a cabinet member was impeached was 1876.


These are certainly not ordinary times.

But corn growers are no ordinary group. We fight. We make our case and, like the Chiefs, we play to win.


While there is a lot at stake in Congress, we are also focused on the Administration where we’re watching rulemakings important to the future of the ethanol industry and seeking science-based standards with our trading partners.   


For example, we recently organized an effort to send a letter to President Biden cautioning him against prioritizing electric vehicles over biofuels, such as corn ethanol. The letter comes on the heels of a similar effort by auto dealers and as the administration has advanced rulemakings in multiple agencies which favor zero emission vehicles. The effort resulted in major media coverage.


We also continue to fight to eliminate trade barriers, such as the Mexican ban on biotech corn, and efforts to place and maintain tariffs on products, like fertilizers, that are widely used by farmers.


These are just a few of the many examples of the ways in which we keep the ball moving on our pressing issues. And despite the many challenges in Congress, we plan to clear the field and win.


So, when people ask me how corn growers deal with the challenges that we are hit with on what has become a regular basis, my response is always the same: We shake it off.


Appleton is vice president of public policy at the National Corn Growers Association.


The IL Corn Growers Association is a member of the National Corn Growers Association.