Liberal, Mo., farmer heads the state’s Corn Growers Association

Living within spitting distance of the Kansas state line, Kyle Kirby is a fifth-generation Barton County, Mo., farmer, with roots in the area going back to the 1860s. Living and farming on several thousand acres in the Liberal, Mo., area, the Kirby family raises corn, soybeans, wheat, alfalfa and prairie hay. Some backgrounding of calves is also done, using some of the on-farm grain as feed. The family even maintains several acres of native prairie ground that has never been plowed.

Kyle became president of the Missouri Corn Growers Association on Oct. 1, 2017, after having served on the board of directors for several years and as chairman of the Missouri Corn Merchandising Council in the year prior to taking his current office. The merchandising council handles programs such as the corn check-off. In addition, Kyle has represented Missouri corn growers at the national association level in various capacities.

Kyle said the biggest concern for agricultural producers is still low prices, and there are still some lingering concerns with water issues and potentially onerous government regulations.

“We have grown some huge crops in this state recently and the supply we are setting on is quite large,” said Kyle. “Water quality issues and regulations continue to be a concern as well as EPA regulations, however that has been alleviated some with the new (Trump) administration.”

Kyle said issues in international production regions are also roiling domestic markets.

“South American weather continues to have the markets on edge,” said Kirby. “We have seen a little rebound in prices, especially soybeans as we continue to hear reports of dry weather in Argentina. Wheat prices have also rebounded some as western KS and surrounding areas continue to be dry.”

Missouri does offer advantages to farmers in the diversity of crops and animals that can be raised within its borders, giving them options when the market for one commodity tanks.

“One of the biggest advantages that Missouri has is it’s diversity,” said Kyle. “We have a lot of options here in this state, as farmers. We can grow a multitude of crops as well as livestock.”

The state’s burgeoning ethanol industry is another plus, Kirby said.

“We have six ethanol plants that provide livestock feed across the state. Wet and dry distillers grains out of the ethanol plants have become so popular that supplies are at the lowest level in recent memory,” Kyle said. “Without wet and dry distillers grains, I don’t know what livestock producers, such as our operation, would do for a protein source for cattle.”

In his position as president of MCGA, Kyle also advocates for corn producers and other farmers alike on issues affecting Missouri agriculture. Currently, trade deals that will affect all agricultural commodities are the primary focus, as well negotiations on the next Farm Bill.

“Of course NAFTA is the centerpiece, but the (Trump) administration has recently mentioned that there may be possibility with TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) as well,” Kyle said. “Exports of whole grains along with grain by-products and ethanol appear to be our best option when looking for new markets or expanding existing ones.”

On the farm bill front, Kirby said agricultural producers must stand firm in not giving up more than their fair share in negotiations, especially on vital programs such as crop insurance.

“There has been talk of reduced funding in the farm bill for various programs. Farmers remain adamantly opposed to more cuts to crop insurance and other programs as it seems that we give up more than our fair share every time,” said Kirby.”

The recent news of a major east coast oil refiner declaring bankruptcy, blaming ethanol and the renewable fuel standard on their woes despite having made massive payouts to their primary investor is ridiculous, in Kirby’s opinion.

“It’s absolutely insane,” Kyle said. “How is it that many refiners continue to post double digit increases in profit at the same time that PES [Philadelphia Energy Solutions] files for bankruptcy protection again? This company’s investors made some bad decisions after it’s bankruptcy bailout in 2012. Nothing new here. ”

Kyle said his disappointed that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has taken this event as an opportunity to speak out against the renewable fuel standard.

“(I)t’s is very disappointing that Senator Cruz has chosen to take the stage against the safest and most renewable fuel available to consumers and one that has also provided tremendous savings at the pump. Our Missouri senators have supported the RFS since its inception and continue to do so,” Kirby said.

As for another issue often tied to the use of fossil fuels, climate change, Kirby said farmers must continue to watch weather as they always have and adapt accordingly.

“There is no denying that a warmer climate has gradually moved north. Whether it be from weather cycles or something else is really unknown,” Kirby said. “But I do know that we have enjoyed some really nice temperatures during the last two summers followed by one of the coldest winters to begin 2018 that we have seen for sometime. We will just have to see if these weather patterns continue.”

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed by Kyle Kirby in this story do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Ozarks Farm & Neighbor.


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