(Posted Thu. Jan 7th, 2016)

Members of the National Corn Growers Association’s Production and Stewardship Action Team met in St. Louis recently to review program progress and fine-tune initiatives to assure alignment with evolving challenges facing family corn farmers.


“What we are really doing is looking for opportunities to meet society’s needs for corn and balance that with our farmers’ desire to do so in a way that is sustainable and better for the environment,” said Brent Hostetler, PSAT chairman and a farmer from Plain City, Ohio. “This can include dealing with an issue like aflatoxin that hurts crop quality, expanding farmer’s knowledge on ways to improve and protect soil health, or even assuring we have the transportation infrastructure to service global customers.”


Hostettler singled out the relatively new Soil Health Partnership  as an example of how a small, dedicated group of growers can facilitate meaningful progress and change with the direction and support of the much larger grassroots organization.


The Soil Health Partnership has 40 demonstration farms in place and will expand that to 60 farms in 2016. These farms showcase innovative soil management practices for other farmers including reduced tillage systems, cover crops and advanced nutrient management.


The Action Team also assessed progress being made by the Aflatoxin Mitigation Center of Excellence. The group is a veritable “SWAT team” formed by corn checkoff boards from seven southern states to understand and curb the toxic fungus that can harm corn quality and safety.


“This cooperative research effort is showing results on several fronts,” said Max Starbuck, NCGA director of market development. “Aflatoxin resistant seed genetics are entering the market place, biological strategies are promising and education efforts on corn handling, testing and transportation are paying dividends.”


2016 will be a pivotal year for efforts to improve the health and usefulness of the Mississippi River. NCGA is working cooperatively as part of America’s Watershed Initiative which seeks to tackle land and water use dilemmas, while recognizing the linkages connecting our economy, human well-being and ecosystem sustainability.


“Addressing issues like these, as well as partnering with the livestock industry on areas of mutual concern, is a tall order so it’s critical we approach things in a strategic manner.” Hostetler said. “That’s why we prepared for 2016 by meeting in St. Louis last month.”


The NCGA meeting, held in conjunction with meetings for the organization’s five other action teams and committees, allowed the growers to dig into the specific policies listed in the portion of the strategic plan corresponding with their team’s focus area. The resulting information and guidance will be presented to the Corn Board and, eventually, Corn Congress.


In addition to Hostettler, team members include Vice Chairman Ronnie Mohr, Indiana; Lynn Chrisp, Nebraska, Corn Board Liaison; Jim Burg, South Dakota; Dennis Friest, Iowa; Morris Heitman,  Missouri; Kirby Hettver, Minnesota; Gary Hudson, Illinois; Jeff Jarboe, Illinois; Carson Klosterman, Carson, North Dakota; Gail Lierer, Ohio; Charles Ring, Texas; Theresa Sisung, Michigan; Carl Sousek, Nebraska; Jim Sugarek, Iowa; Randy Woodruff, Wisconsin; and NCGA staff Max Starbuck, Ethan Mathews, and Linda Kassoff.