(Posted Tue. Jan 8th, 2013)

Jan. 8: As growers prepare to travel to St. Louis for the annual National Corn Growers Association Priority and Policy Conference, Off the Cob revisits conversations held with chairmen of the action teams and committees following meetings in December. During these interviews, the attendees offer information on a variety of subjects covered that they feel to be of particular interest to farmers.

Today, Off the Cob features an interview with Trade Policy and Biotechnology Action Team Chair Jim Zimmerman, a farmer from Rosendale, Wisc. The newest of the NCGA action teams, TPBAT was created to foster better communication and an innovative approach to the often overlapping arenas of fostering trade policy that opens international markets to U.S. corn and promoting proper biotechnology stewardship within the agricultural community while encouraging acceptance of this vital technology externally.

Zimmerman noted that the recent meeting furthered progress in a number of areas, helping existing programs move forward and continue to thrive in 2013.

“Through our industry outreach program, we worked on insect resistance management issues and looked at newly commercialized biotech products from a variety of angles,” he said. “Our goal here is to continually make sure that the products farmers get from the technology providers are workable in real world situations.”

He went on to describe how specific programs currently underway couple grower education stressing the importance of biotechnology stewardship with tools that empower them with the knowledge necessary to maintain product effectiveness.

“We support our efforts to ensure biotechnology works for farmers through educational programs that really explain why insect and weed resistance measures are important to them,” Zimmerman explained. “Growers come to see how everyone benefits from proper refuge compliance and, to make what can seem like a complicated task a little easier, we offer a refuge compliance calculator. This tool, which is updated annually, helps farmers as they work with their seed dealers to develop a refuge compliance plan when using a vast array of biotech varieties, including those recently released. In complying with refuge requirements, farmers can do their part in maintaining the durability of biotech traits.”

To access the Insect Resistance Management Refuge Calculator, click here.

“We also empower growers to better serve their markets through the Know Before You Grow program,” he said. “This online resource allows growers, marketers and grain buyers to see if there are any market restrictions on biotech products. This knowledge allows them to develop an effective plan that makes sure the right products get to the right markets.”

To access the Know Before You Grow tool, click here.

Zimmerman explained how the team also continues to build upon already successful efforts to foster trade policies that open doors for U.S. farmers. He noted that policies that open international markets for corn farmers also benefit the national economy as a whole.

“Our team continues its historical work to help develop trade policy that provides farmers access to international markets,” Zimmerman said. “This access is imperative for both our farmers and the international community as the United States is the world’s largest grain exporter. Additionally, policies that open markets allow U.S. agriculture to thrive and continue its positive role in the overall economy by reducing the U.S. trade imbalance.”

While trade policy work may involve information and discussion, he explained how successful trade policy work in 2012 has led to concrete, tangible for U.S. farmers today.

“This past year, market access promotion efforts by NCGA, and a wide variety of other groups, came to fruition through the signing of a variety of free trade agreements, including ones with Colombia and Panama,” he said. “Prior to those agreements, U.S. corn was effectively locked out of these markets by import tariffs. Through successful negotiations, we came to agreements where the tariffs were either completely eliminated or progressively reduced. This success opened new markets for our grain, and we hope to build on that by promoting market access for U.S. farmers in the Trans Pacific Partnership discussions and in trade negotiations between the United States and the European Union.”

To listen to the full interview, click here.

In addition to Zimmerman, team members include Vice Chair Roger Zylstra, Corn Board Liaison Lynn Chrisp, Don Duvall, Chris Edgington, Robert Gordon, David Howell, John Linder, Scott Miller, John Mages, Jim Raben, David Ward, U.S. Grains Council Representative James Stuever and Rosalind Leeck of Indiana Corn Growers Association.

This story is the third in a series looking at the challenges and opportunities to be faced by NCGA’s action teams and committees in the months ahead.