(Posted Wed. Dec 26th, 2012)

Billy ThielThe National Corn Growers Association concludes the second season of Field Notes, a series that takes readers behind the farm gate to follow the year in the life of American farm families. While these growers come from diverse geographic areas and run unique operations, they share a common love for U.S. agriculture and the basic values that underpin life in farming communities.

Field Notes caught up with Billy Thiel, a Missouri farmer who has served his fellow growers through leadership at both the state and national levels. Through the year, he updated listeners on his operation, providing insight into the role technology played in reducing the impact of drought on this year’s corn crop, the importance of sound, far-sighted public policy and the need for farmers to give back to their industry through volunteer service.

Looking back on 2012, Thiel finds that both his largest challenges and accomplishments as a farmer were rooted in the drought.

“I would have to say that the biggest challenge in 2012 was the lack of water, and the biggest accomplishment was raising a fairly large crop in spite of the drought,” he stated. “I believe that it was drier this year than during the drought of 1983, but biotech innovations helped us produce one of the top ten U.S. corn crops on record. Given that advanced technology allowed us to grow a crop of this size under these conditions, we should be able to grow an impressively large crop as soon as we get some good weather.”

Always one to find a positive in seemingly dark situations, Thiel responded in a light-hearted manner when asked about what made this year unique for him as a farmer.

“This year, I had a lot more time to think about things,” he joked. “Without any grass growing, I didn’t have to worry about mowing.”

Returning to the question for a more serious look, he noted how technology helped save this year’s crop even as relentless heat compounded the dry conditions.

“This year was different in that it wasn’t just hot during the day,” said Thiel. “This year, it stayed hot all through the night as well. Usually, a crop really suffers when it doesn’t cool down over night because the water that is held in the soil evaporates continuously. Yet, we managed to grow a sizeable crop with the intense heat compounding our water worries.”

A passionate advocate for the benefits of biotechnology, Thiel stressed the necessities of finding markets for corn as the size of the crop increases to ensure that the country makes the most of this abundant, safe source of food, feed, fuel and fiber.

To listen to the audio interview, click here.

Stay tuned over the coming weeks as Field Notes checks in one final time with the growers who have opened their farms, families and communities up this year and meet the true faces of modern American agriculture.