Ears in Washington, January 2022

Traffic Jams on a Bumpy Road to 2022

By Brooke Appleton

As we begin 2022, we’re still trying to sort through so much from last year. What follows are some of my thoughts on where we left off in 2021…

West Virginia Coal in the President’s Christmas Stocking
Before Christmas, Sen. Joe Manchin dropped a bomb on Washington by announcing on Fox News Sunday that he would be a “no” on the president’s $1.7 trillion Build Back Better legislation.

The president had been courting the West Virginia senator’s support for months and said that he was under the impression that he and Manchin were close to a deal. But Manchin indicated on Fox that he couldn’t say yes to the bill given some of the country’s current circumstances, such as high inflation and the fallout from COVID-19. He also had problems with some policy aspects of the bill.

NCGA was carefully watching Build Back Better to make sure farmers weren’t stuck paying the price through the removal of stepped-up basis or through hikes in estate taxes. We did, however, praise our congressional allies for including billions of dollars in the bill to support farmers with conservation and environmental programs and funds for biofuels infrastructure.

At this writing, the White House appears extremely frustrated with the West Virginia senator, as demonstrated through a harsh public statement. While I believe that this signature bill of the Biden administration will eventually be resurrected in some form, the White House only has so much leverage in this fight, as the senator represents an overwhelmingly red state where Trump won 68% of the vote in 2020. Blasting Manchin runs the risk of further alienating the moderate senator, which is risky for the Democratic Party and its slim Senate majority.

The 2020 presidential map showing every county in West Virginia going for Trump.


Fueling Up on Farmer-Friendly Legislation in 2022

Much of the focus will continue to be on the future of the BBB plan, and we all know it’s difficult to get much accomplished in an election year, but we’re going to keep pushing for passage of key legislation for corn growers. This includes ensuring the year-round access to E15 and building momentum on the Next Generation Fuels Act, which paves the way to incorporate higher ethanol blends into America’s fuel supply. Given the competing priorities in Washington, we need your voice in pushing these legislative priorities. If you haven’t already, let your members of Congress know you support these bills. Act now.

NCGA Tackles Fertilizer Tariffs  

In March of 2021, the U.S. International Trade Commission levied 20% tariffs on phosphorous fertilizers imported from Russia and Morocco. The tariffs were put in place at the behest of Mosaic Co., one of the nation’s largest fertilizer companies. CF Industries, another major fertilizer company, subsequently petitioned the ITC to place tariffs on nitrogen fertilizers imported from Russia and Trinidad & Tobago.

NCGA launched a communications campaign in response to the issue. We have already gotten the attention of Mosaic executives who went from denying the connection between tariffs and fertilizer costs to finally admittingthat their tariffs are one of many factors influencing fertilizer price hikes.

Our work to date has included some of the following tactics:

  • Published an op-ed in the ag press shining a light on the role Mosaic and CF Industry executives were playing in hiking fertilizer costs.
  • Met with fertilizer executives. After the op-ed ran, stunned Mosaic executives accepted our officer’s request for a meeting, which resulted in NCGA asking Mosaic executives to withdraw their petitions, which would eliminate the tariffs.
  • Publicized a letter sent to Mosaic, signed by the NCGA president and state leaders, which called for the company to eliminate the tariffs by withdrawing their petition to the ITC.
  • Placed stories in the Wall Street Journal and other major publications raising awareness about the issue.This has caused other groups to speak out and generated traffic on social media and in the press.
  • Met with congressional leaders including Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa about the issue. As a result, Senator Grassley sent a letter to the U.S. attorney general calling for an anti-trust investigation of these companies.

There is a lot of work ahead in 2022. In the coming weeks, we will be releasing the results of a study that elaborates on the effects the tariffs are having on fertilizer costs. Stay tuned!

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