Commentary by Chris Novak, Chief Executive Officer, National Corn Growers Association
In less than a week’s time, colleagues in the cattle industry will head off to Nashville, Tennessee to participate in the 120th Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show. Further south, our friends in the poultry industry will head to Atlanta, Georgia for the largest annual trade show for the poultry, meat and feed industries in the country. With these two industries coming together, it makes it a good time to reflect on our relationships with those in animal agriculture. Collectively, beef, poultry, pork and dairy producers represent corn farmers’ number-one customer. It’s a fact of which we’re both proud and grateful. Over 39 percent of U.S. grown corn goes toward animal agriculture. Adding in distillers dried grains (DDGs), a co-product of corn ethanol production, brings total consumption figures to 47 percent1. Clearly, what is good for animal agriculture is good for corn growers.
The reverse is also true. Consumer skepticism in the nation’s food supply, negative media attention, and challenges to free trade threaten the health of all our industries. Knowing this, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is constantly looking for ways to contribute to the economic health of its largest customer in ways that are mutually beneficial. That is why we incorporated livestock-related objectives into our Strategic Plan2. Corn farmers recognize that livestock and poultry’s successes are vital if we are to achieve our stated goals of building competitive market demand for corn, and corn products, and enhancing customer and consumer trust in our nation’s food supply.
To accomplish the goals set forth in our plan, NCGA and its state affiliates engage in a variety of activities to help support animal agriculture. For example, we continue to invest in educational efforts – such as the Soil Health Partnership – that helps create new efficiencies in corn production and help farmers better utilize crop nutrients. Healthy soil results in a quality product, which in turn, is beneficial to livestock operations. We also work alongside our livestock and poultry producing colleagues in broad-based agricultural organizations – such as U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance – to help reduce consumer misperceptions. And we are collaborating with industry professionals, animal experts, and plant scientists to help deliver improvements in the nutrient composition of corn and expand the cost-effective use of DDGs in livestock rations.
Looking ahead, we want – and need – to do even more with our livestock and poultry colleagues. Farm and ranch families comprise just two percent of the U.S. population3. However, thanks to advancements in technology and agronomic practices, we collectively produce enough food to feed both American citizens and a growing world population. Developing economies have an appetite for quality protein from meat, and this trend shows no signs of slowing. NCGA’s vision is to feed and fuel a growing world. To achieve this vision, we must work together to continue to push for farming programs and trade policies that support all of agriculture.
Livestock producers and corn farmers have more in common than they do differences, and a whole lot to gain by working together. As our friends in the cattle and poultry industries head off to Music City and the Big Peach, we want them to know that corn growers sincerely wish you all continued success and prosperity – and we’re working hard to help you achieve it.
NCGA is taking a series of actions to do our part to help contain the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the economic fallout it is creating for corn farmers and our customers. Short term, this means instituting policies to protect the health and safety of our stakeholders and the broader communities we serve. Long term, we’re focused on creating solutions to help corn farmers and our customers recover from the financial impacts of this crisis.
CommonGround is a group of farmers connecting with consumers through conversations about science and research and personal stories about food and misinformation surrounding farming. Supported by the NCGA and state corn organizations.
The Soil Health Partnership (SHP) is a farmer-led initiative that fosters transformation in agriculture through improved soil health. Administered by NCGA the partnership has more than 220 working farms enrolled in 16 states. SHP’s mission is to utilize science and data to partner with farmers who are adopting conservation agricultural practices that improve the economic and environmental sustainability of the farm.