(Posted Wed. Feb 5th, 2014)

Today, the National Corn Growers Association’s Trade Policy and Biotechnology Action Team concluded its spring meeting in Portland, Ore., where team members reviewed the organization’s policy in their area of expertise, reviewed recommendations coming out of the Priority and Policy meeting held earlier in January and met with representatives from government and industry to explore upcoming challenges and opportunities. 


Looking at a variety of issues, including how to best support agricultural exports, stress the importance of respecting refuge requirements and facilitate successful communication across the value-chain on their issues, the team will use their in-depth knowledge of the subject matter to develop the nuanced, strategic suggestions needed to help the Corn Board guide NCGA policy effectively.


“During the winter months, it can begin to feel like farmer leaders spend a large amount of time participating in meetings for a variety of agricultural groups,” said Team Chair Jim Zimmerman. “As my involvement has increased, I have come to even-more fully appreciate the breadth and scope of the myriad issues facing farmers today.  By developing teams with specialization in major areas of opportunity and taking the time to analyze the issues in a critical, thorough manner, we are able to most effectively provide input on how, in our area, the Corn Board can shape NCGA policy and, subsequently, maximize the effectiveness of farmer-funded market development and production activities.”


The meeting began Monday morning as growers dug into the specific policies listed in the portion of the handbook corresponding with their team’s focus area. Carefully debating the implications of any proposed changes, team members worked diligently to carefully craft a precise, well-constructed document for presentation to the Corn Board and, eventually, Corn Congress.


“Through these discussions, we develop a solid appreciation for the importance of the exact connotation of each word used, and of those not used, in our policy document,” said Zimmerman.  “But these discussions generate greater thought and analysis than a simple wordsmithing exercise.  Examining the future of the industry, the scope of NCGA’s role in it and the potential pitfalls of seemingly benign statements leads us to policy recommendations that play a vital role in determining how the organization will proceed on our behalf.”


The team also delved more deeply into a variety of areas certain to impact the future of corn farming through presentations from and discussions with leadership from agri-industry.  Through these discussions, the farmers gained up-to-the-minute information that they will scrutinize and, as events unfold, incorporate into future recommendations.


Meetings included tours of an export grain elevator in Longview, Wash. And of the Bonneville Lock and Dam at Cascade Locks, Ore. During these site visits, the farmers were able to gain deeper understanding of the logistics issues that impact international trade including situations on the railways system, funding for updates to the waterways infrastructure and the intricacies of shipping commodity grain.


In addition to Zimmerman, team members include Vice Chair Roger Zylstra of Iowa, Corn Board Liaison Kevin Skunes of North Dakota, Don Duvall of Illinois, Robert Gordon of Texas, Robert Hemesath of Iowa, David Howell of Indiana, Brandon Hunnicutt of Nebraska, John Linder of Ohio, Scott Miller of Michigan, Dwight Mork of Minnesota, Jim Raben of Illinois, Jason Reiners of Nebraska, James Stuever as representative of the U.S Grains Council, and Rosalind Leeck of the Indiana Corn Growers Association. NCGA staff in attendance included Director of Biotechnology and Economic Analysis Nathan Fields, Director of Public Policy Zach Kinne, Communications Manager Cathryn Wojcicki and Administrative Assistant Maggie Fogerty.