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CHS Leaders in Washington for ag issue discussions

From trade to taxes, legislators heard from CHS in June on how federal policy impacts producers and the cooperative system. CHS CEO Jay Debertin, members of the Board of Directors, CHS New Leaders, and Government Affairs team gathered in Washington, D.C. in conjunction with the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives Washington Conference.

“This trip helps folks experience the real opportunity we all have to share our voices – in D.C. or locally - with elected leaders to let them know the impact policymaking has in hometown communities,” said John Engelen, vice president, Government Affairs.

“I’m well aware of agricultural issues in my area and the political process was nothing what I expected it to be,” said Keaton Sameshima, Agfinity Cooperative. “The people we met on Capitol Hill were nice and willing to hear what constituents have to say on issues.  I believe we can make a very positive impact through advocacy like this.”

Eight future cooperative leaders gained federal policy experience as part of the Political Advocacy with CHS Government Affairs program, an extension of the CHS New Leaders program aimed at learning skills critical for engaging effectively and making a powerful impact on issues relevant to CHS and its owners.

“I never thought we would get to see the inside of so much of everything that goes on with the lobbying,” said Tyson Lovejoy, Northern Resource Cooperative. “The more and more I’m involved I want to be more involved in our co-op and show that our voice can be heard.”

Participants were nominated by their co-op managers because of the potential they possess for leadership within their respective co-ops and the agriculture industry in general. 2017 participants included:

Keaton Sameshima, Ault, Colo.; Agfinity
Dan and Robin Dormaier, Almira, Wash., AgLink
Tyson and Cassie Lovejoy, Warroad, Minn., Northern Resource Cooperative
Scott and Chelsi Neufeldt, Inman, Kan., Mid Kansas Cooperative

Directors participating in the meeting included: Dan Schurr, Iowa; David Johnsrud, Minn.; Randy Knecht and David Kayser, S.D.; Jon Erickson, N.D.; C.J. Blew, Kansas; and Greg Kruger and Mark Farrell, Wis.

Advocacy efforts focused on CHS support for the Section 199 Domestic Production Activities deduction and extension of the Alternative Fuel Mixture Excise tax credit. The group also discussed priorities for NAFTA renegotiation and inland waterways infrastructure and funding.

In the House and Senate, participants urged Congress to consider the unique status of farmer cooperatives when developing tax reform proposals. CHS has been a steadfast advocate for retaining Section 199 and educated members of Congress about why a corporate rate reduction generally would not benefit CHS and its members.

As one of the nation’s largest propane wholesalers, and owners of the largest fleet of pressurized propane vehicles in the country, CHS strongly urged Congress to pass a multi-year extension of the Alternative Fuel Mixture Excise tax credit.

Lawmakers and staff welcomed CHS participation in discussions surrounding NAFTA renegotiations. Any major changes in the economic platform established in NAFTA could result in extensive new tariffs and non-tariff barriers being applied against U.S. food and agricultural exports. CHS stressed that America’s farmers, food manufactures and agribusinesses can’t afford to lose any access to the Mexican and Canadian markets.

The group informed lawmakers that the current inland waterways modernization program is already a model Public-Private Partnership. CHS and the inland waterways operators industry have consistently opposed tolls and lockage fees that would seek to increase what commercial operators—just one of many beneficiaries of the waterways—pay under the current diesel fuel tax collection system, a tax that was increased by 45 percent in 2014.