EP.17-Short Stature Corn and Other New Ag Tech, with Bayer Crop Science’s Brett Begemann

March 25, 2021

EP.17-Short Stature Corn and Other New Ag Tech, with Bayer Crop Science’s Brett Begemann

Mar 25, 2021

With planting season upon us, we continue our focus on agronomy for the month of March.

 

In this episode, we catch up with Brett Begemann, the Chief Operating Officer at Bayer Crop Science. He shares details about the new inputs they’ve got in their technology pipeline, what that means for the future of farming and how their role in the ag industry is evolving.

 

We also catch a bit of the March Madness and hear Jon Doggett’s secret for filling out his bracket every year.

 

Before joining Bayer, Brett served as President and Chief Operating Officer at Monsanto Company, where he led global efforts to connect farmers with solutions for growing better harvests. Brett worked for 35 years at Monsanto, holding a number of leadership roles, including Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer.

 

 

Direct Share

TRANSCRIPTS

 

Brett Begemann:

I think things are changing faster now than at any time I've seen them, and mostly for the good. And when things are changing that fast, we have to be careful that we don't become complacent. If we're not doing it different than we did last year, we're probably going backwards, because everybody else is moving forward.

 

Dusty Weis:

Hello and welcome to Wherever Jon May Roam, the National Corn Growers Association podcast. This is where leaders, growers, and stakeholders in the corn industry can turn for big-picture conversations about the state of the industry and its future. I'm Dusty Weis and I'll be introducing your host, association CEO, Jon Doggett. You can join Jon every month as he travels the country on a mission to advocate for America's corn farmers. From the fields of the corn belt to the DC beltway, we'll make sure that the growers who feed America have a say in the issues that are important to them with key leaders who are shaping the future of agriculture.

 

Dusty Weis:

This week is part two of our planting season focus on agronomy. We're talking to Brett Begemann, the chief operating officer at Bayer Crop Science. And we'll hear about some of the new inputs that they've got in their technology pipeline, what that means for the future of farming and how their role in ag is evolving. We'll also catch a bit of the March Madness and hear Jon Doggett's secret sauce for filling out his bracket every year. But if you haven't yet, make sure you're subscribed to this podcast in your favorite app, that way you can take us with you in your truck, your tractor on your next trip, and never miss an update from Jon. Also make sure to follow the NCGA on Twitter, @nationalcorn, and sign up for the National Corn Growers Association newsletter at ncga.com

 

Dusty Weis:

And with that, it's time to once again, introduce Jon. Jon Doggett, the CEO of the National Corn Growers Association. And Jon with planting season upon us, we're continuing our focus on agronomy for the month of March, bringing your members some insider insights from the leaders of two of the biggest inputs producers in the world of agriculture.

 

Jon Doggett:

Dusty. It's been a great opportunity just to chat with one of these executives, but we're now going to get to pick the brains of another one of those executives in just two week period. So that's pretty cool. We think there's a lot that our growers can take from these conversations and apply them to their own success in the fields this year. So today I'm just tickled to death, we're going to be chatting with Brett Begemann. He is the chief operating officer at Bayer Crop Science. Before joining Bayer, Brett served as the president and chief operating officer at the Monsanto company where he led global efforts to connect farmers with solutions for growing better harvests. Brett worked for 35 years at Monsanto holding a number of leadership roles, including executive vice-president and chief commercial officer. So Brett, thanks so much for joining us on the NCGA podcast.

 

Brett Begemann:

Jon, I'm excited to be here. Thanks for the opportunity.

 

Jon Doggett:

So before we dig in too deep, I understand you're a sports fan and you might be slightly biased, but March Madness is upon us. Brett, who are your picks for the final four? And who do you think will be cutting down the net once it's all said and done?

 

Brett Begemann:

Well, Jon, I have to admit I am highly biased. So the fact that the Missouri Tigers are in, my heart says I got to pick my Tigers, but I think they're going to struggle to get for sure through the second round. If they can make it past Oklahoma, they got to take on Gonzaga, which being the number one seed is going to be a tough go if they can get past Oklahoma. So I don't think my Tigers are going to be in the final four, but I'd be optimistic. I have not done my bracket yet. I've been waiting to hear what all the other experts are saying.

 

Brett Begemann:

I will tell you, I think the big 10's pretty tough this year. They played a lot of good basketball with the likes of Ohio State and Illinois and Iowa. Not to mention Wisconsin, Minnesota, just a pretty tough crowd up across the big 10. So I suspect you're going to see a couple of them there. But there's also some other good teams out there. And that's why we call it the big dance, because you never know. And there could easily be a Cinderella this year. I think there'll be more surprises in the game this year than we've seen, because we just haven't got to see as many teams play outside their conference. So it'll be exciting like it is every year. And I really look forward to it.

 

Dusty Weis:

As a longtime Wisconsin fan and Wisconsin resident, I have to say it makes my heart smile to hear somebody refer to the big 10 with that sort of reverence. But I've got to say, I'm just happy to see an NCAA tournament that doesn't prominently feature Kentucky or Duke. Don't mind seeing them miss the dance every once in a while. But of course, I'm holding out hope for the NCAA college hockey tournament, which is where I actually rest most of my hopes and dreams here. And I'm pulling for a Wisconsin, Minnesota rematch in the final game of that.

 

Jon Doggett:

Well, Brett mentioned it, you got to go with your brain instead of your heart. But sometimes that's really, really difficult and I always love watching one of my son-in-laws and my daughter fill out their brackets. Frank does it all with heart and Katie does it as a math major and teaches math and she does it with her brain and guess who does better every year. So I wait until Katie's done with her bracket and then I ask her if she'll share it with dad. So we'll see how that works. I've not talked to her yet about it today, so we're working on it. So, Brett, I understand you were raised on a farm and if I'm correct, you're still involved with that farm. And tell me how that experience helps you every day in your job.

 

Brett Begemann:

Yeah, Jon that's right. I grew up on a farm in Western, Missouri, 50 miles or so outside of Kansas City. And I own that farm today. My parents have passed away and my brother lives there and my sister lives just down the road. I have several other farms in the same area, most of those in the same county and then a couple more over here on the eastern side of the state, kind of northeast, Missouri. And I enjoy being connected to agriculture and production agriculture because it's where I spent my nearly 40-year career. And I think it keeps you real. I have to write my checks because I share a crop at all for fertilizer, for seed, for crop protection.

 

Brett Begemann:

I talked to the farmers about the digital tools we're using. All the same stuff that we're trying to develop to help farmers, and there's real value in being connected to it every day. Of course, they do all the work. They make most of the decisions but I always enjoy the conversation with them and it helps me understand how they're thinking about making their decisions. And I suspect that's a decent representation for many of the other corn farmers across the country and around the world as they go about making their decisions.

 

Jon Doggett:

Yeah. And writing your own checks for those inputs is important, but you've left out an important component of being a farmer and that is, you can't complain about seed cost, can you.

 

Brett Begemann:

Well, at heart, I'm a farmer. I happen to work in industry, but I'm a farmer at heart. I think that gives you permission to complain about the weather anytime you want to, you can always complain about inputs. The interesting thing about agriculture, especially for farmers is you're your own purchasing agent. You're the own director of manufacturing and production. You're your own marketer in many cases. So you have to wear a lot of different hats. And I think that gives you a permission in a unique way to be critical of the things that you have to buy as well as the things that you're selling. And I often learn as much from growers when they're sharing with me their concerns, as I learn when they're sharing with me their optimism, because it resonates because I faced many of the same things they do.

 

Jon Doggett:

Well, it certainly keeps you grounded, I know that for sure. So Brett, corn farmers are always curious about what's next from companies like Bayer. You folks did some announcements around your R and D pipeline last week, you're spending two and a half-billion dollars a year on innovation. What can corn farmers expect to see out of Bayer in the months ahead and how's that going to impact their operations?

 

Brett Begemann:

Jon I'm super excited. I mean, a couple things, first of all, let me back up a little bit. I spent time with your farmers, with the corn growers and other industry associations a number of years ago when we first started talking about Bayer and Monsanto coming together. And one of the things I said is that the intent of these two organizations coming together was to invest in innovation in agriculture like nobody else. And that we weren't doing it to cut our spending in R and D, we were doing it to make our R and D even more effective. And we've done that. And as we announced, we spend close to two and a half-billion dollars a year on R and D and out of that for corn farmers, already next year is a couple of really cool things, the next generation of smart stacks.

 

Brett Begemann:

So smart stacks pro coming with a new control for corn rootworm that's RNAI based, which has really different mode of action than anything else for rootworm control in the market today. And I couldn't be more excited about that. But I have to tell you the one that excites me even more, and I think it's going to change corn production for a long time is short stature corn. And I had some pictures that we carried around that we used at our capital market day of those fields growing in Iowa with the horrible windstorm that went through there this year. And the only corn standing in our research trial was the short stature corn. And what's really cool is that corn yields as good as conventional corn. And we're introducing that next year too. We already have a breeding version of that in Mexico, but we'll introduce that in North America this coming year. We also have other versions of that that will continue to develop and bring forward.

 

Brett Begemann:

But I'm really excited about it. It changes the way we can grow corn. From how we can access the crop with ground clearance equipment, how we can manage our fertility and disease control and insect control, weed control throughout year in a different way. I just think it's going to open the door to a lot of additional innovation in corn. So I'm really excited about what we're bringing for corn. And there's a host of other things. Of course, many of your producers are also growing soybeans, if they're growing corn. We've got a lot of new things coming in soybeans. We got crop protection products that are coming and a lot of new digital tools that are coming as well. So it's an exciting time right now, a lot of new stuff coming.

 

Dusty Weis:

Brett, for growers who want to learn more, especially about the short stature corn varieties, where can they go to learn that? And if they're interested in potentially getting involved, do you guys have a waitlist going, or how do they go about getting signed up?

 

Brett Begemann:

We don't have a waitlist going just yet. There'll be some out there again this year. And you'll see us promoting that a lot more this year as we have trials out for farmers to take a look at, actually go see it and experience it themselves because I think that's ultimately the best test. There's some information on our website at bayercropscience.com. You can go there and look at it, but the most information will start coming this year. As we put it out in the field commercially, we'll have farmers growing it, not research trials, there'll be real commercial crops. So we'll get a chance to take a real look at it. And we'll share that with farmers very openly. And that will be coming here soon in the spring time. You'll see us start to promote that.

 

Dusty Weis:

I'd really like to hear a little bit more about your R and D operation. As someone who's never been, I picture a lot of white lab coats, glass flasks. What's it like for you to walk through this operation and talk to the brains behind making these incredible advances in technology?

 

Brett Begemann:

Having been at Monsanto a long time and now Bayer, the largest, and I think one of the most successful plant science research facilities in the world sits here in Chesterfield, in St. Louis, Missouri. I make it a point to go on the tour, which we do for thousands of people every year, on a fairly regular basis, at least every year, if not more than once a year. And the reason I do is because it's always changing. Science is advancing at an accelerating rate. There was a time when, and I'm no scientist, I'm just a business guy, but when chemistry and biology started crashing together and started changing things. And now you see data starting to crash together with chemistry and biology in a very unique way. And the innovation that's coming out of research today is a combination of all of those things at one time.

 

Brett Begemann:

So we now do our first research and our first yield trials with our new lines on a chip. We don't do them in a field. We do them on a computer chip and then the winners and losers out of that chip are the ones that get determined to go to the field or not. So it's just how it's all come together. So yes, you see people in lab coats, you also see people in boots and jeans and t-shirts working in a greenhouse and more often than not, they're in their boots and jeans, unless they have that lab coat on because they're doing something in a lab that requires that. And of course, safety is always a first priority for anybody in a lab. And then you'll see all kinds of sophisticated sequencing machines, the most sophisticated that you would see in any medical lab around the world or any other plant science lab in the world are in that facility, as well as the computer capability and data analytics that are utilized today.

 

Brett Begemann:

Very proud of it, of course, I'm biased, but it's quite a sight. And for anyone that's been through it, I always say, never pass an opportunity... And not just ours. I mean, there's other great companies out there too. Don't pass the opportunity to go back through, because I promise you, it's going to be very different. Agriculture is changing fast and every other industry is as well. It's a unique opportunity to take advantage of it,

 

Dusty Weis:

Jon, from your perspective, decades in the industry, when you hear about advances like that, do you ever take a moment just to appreciate how unbelievably cool it is that we're going in and editing the genes of corn crops?

 

Jon Doggett:

Yeah, it's amazing. And Chris Edgington, our first vice president says, and I repeat it often, "If you haven't been on a corn farm in five years, you haven't been on a corn farm." And I think the same is true with the seed industry. I've been in the Washington area since 1988 and I've spent an inordinate amount of time defending agriculture from a stereotype that existed back in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. And often what I do is I hold up my cell phone and say, "What did your cell phone look like 25 years ago?"

 

Jon Doggett:

Why do people think that that technology is moving faster than the technology on the farm or in these companies? And it's the gee golly whiz stuff. And it's pretty cool. For me, it's hard to understand sometimes, but I'm really, really impressed with it. So Brett, last year we got together at Commodity Classic and we talked about a minor issue, Roundup and you know well that we absolutely believe glyphosate is an essential tool for farmers to have. I'm going to ask you for the purpose of the podcast so our farmers can hear from you. Are farmers going to be able to rely on it in the future?

 

Brett Begemann:

Well, Jon, I absolutely think farmers are going to be able to rely on glyphosate and, in our case Roundup now and well into the future. To your point, it's one of those classic molecules and I have been very fortunate in my career to be associated with it for a long time, but it made a huge difference in agriculture. And while it's 30, 40 years old, it's still making a huge difference. It enabled so many cool things and I'm so impressed with what farmers have been able to do by utilizing it, call it the breakthrough chemistry of that. And I was around when we launched Roundup. And I remember people saying, "What would you ever do with a herbicide that kills everything?" And you just sit back and watch farmers. They're some of the most innovative people in the world and look what they've done.

 

Brett Begemann:

They went from a lot of tillage to a little tillage. They've changed the way they manage the soil. We're managing our soil with wind erosion, water erosion, et cetera, in different ways. Now we're talking about carbon and how do you leverage crop protection tools and seed tools to be able to do the kinds of things that we do. So it's still, even though it's old, is a really important component and we're doing everything we can as I committed last year at the Commodity Classic, to maintain the use of that molecule. We don't sell it all in the world. In fact, we sell less than half of it in the world, but we're spending all the money to defend it and keep it available to farmers. And we are absolutely convinced that we're going to be able to do that.

 

Brett Begemann:

At the same time, I have to say, it's really cool. We discovered a new mode of action last year in herbicides, first one in 30 years, which is kind of hard to believe that it's been that long since a new mode of action. And it's already in phase three. So it's only a few years away and it looks pretty impressive. And it also looks really impressive on some of the grass species that can be difficult for glyphosate. So just because we have Roundup and glyphosate, doesn't mean we don't invest in R and D to bring new tools. Getting more and more options in the toolbox for farmers is what it's all about. They need choices. And we always hope to have the one that they're going to pick, but they need choices and we're going to defend glyphosate, but we're also going to invest in new ones.

 

Jon Doggett:

You folks have done a wonderful, wonderful job in defending this chemical and you've shouldered that pretty much by yourselves. And we all owe you a debt of gratitude for that. One of the things Brett, I think is so important, and I've been talking to my friends in the environmental community. It resonates a bit when the environmental community comes to agriculture and says, "We want you to do great things to sequester carbon in the soils." I was [inaudible 00:16:56], "Hey, we can do that, but take all our technology away from us, we'll be farming like we were in the 40s and that is not where any of us want to go back to." So it's important.

 

Jon Doggett:

And we need to continue to let our friends in the environmental community know that we can do a lot but we have to have those tools, the ones that are existing and the ones that you're talking about bringing to the marketplace. And I'm hopeful because I'm an optimist. I'm hopeful that maybe we can get a few of our friends from the environmental community to start doing a better job in convincing some of their fellow folks that these things are important.

 

Brett Begemann:

Yeah, Jon, I think it's really important that we're at the table for these conversations. Agriculture as an industry is at those tables, because these topics are going to be discussed with or without us. And what's the old saying, "If you're at the table, you're in the discussion. If you're not at the table, you're on the menu." And I think sometimes that can happen to us in agriculture and I'm proud of our industry and I have no problem standing on a stage or sitting at a table and claiming, because I believe it to be true, that this industry of agriculture has done as much or more than any other industry to improve our carbon footprint over the past 50 years. You think about just how we farmed when I started nearly 40 years ago and you look at how we farm today and the huge improvements that we've made in the reduction of tillage and heavy tillage, the improvements in yields that farmers have delivered.

 

Brett Begemann:

And that isn't a linear curve in how much nutrient they have put on or water that they've utilizing, but we've increased the productivity dramatically. And in many cases using less stuff. And I think there's opportunity to use even less stuff. When you start looking at digital tools, I'm excited about the day when we can have a piece of equipment that can go through the field and look for the weeds and only spray the weeds and not spray the ground where there are no weeds. Of course, I sell less stuff, but that's great for the farmers, great for society, is great for the planet. That's good stuff. Then we'll figure out how to survive in that we'll innovate, we'll bring new stuff.

 

Brett Begemann:

But this industry is making huge, huge improvements. And we need to tell people that because they don't understand that. And I don't get too critical of them. I don't understand many of their industries either, but I count on them to share with me about it and we need to do our part. And that's why I think we need to be at the table because I think we can turn some heads. And I have to tell you COVID is one of those things is turning some heads. Science is relevant again in a very different way than it was a year ago.

 

Jon Doggett:

Talking about COVID. How did your business change and adapt because of the pandemic and what are some of the things you learned over the last year that you think are really important and things that we need to remember as time goes by?

 

Brett Begemann:

Yeah, who would've thought Jon, when we were at Commodity Classic last year, that we'd find ourselves a month later doing business the way we had to do business and farmers farming the way they had to farm. It's another one of those areas where you look back on the year and you say, "What an incredible industry." The resiliency of this industry just never ceases to amaze me of how both industry and farmers worked together and never missed a beat. And they did an incredible job. We had to make a lot of changes. We ran our systems differently. We relied a lot on virtual tools. We got people out of offices. We only had the people there that had to be there. So we minimized exposure so that we could keep our plants running and keep our seed plants running, keep our logistics and distribution running to get the products to the farmers.

 

Brett Begemann:

Retail did their part in making sure that that all happened. It's amazing how the industry collaborated and we had no time to prepare. I mean, it landed on us at planning time and the industry just came together and it was incredible. We learned a lot. I have to tell you, I'll never travel as much as I used to because I learned that I can be even more productive doing part of my work without traveling. Virtual tools are better too. Just the tools that we have today, versus what we had last year in April are far superior today. Technological advances in nine months is phenomenal. I miss traveling. I miss being in the same room with people. I miss meetings like Commodity Classic, where I can interact with people one-on-one and in conference rooms, et cetera. Those will come back. There'll be a role for those.

 

Brett Begemann:

But a lot of what we did virtually will stay around too. If I've heard it once, I've heard it a hundred times from our customers of, "You know some of those virtual things that you guys did? I really enjoyed that. The idea, I didn't have to drive an hour and a half to do an hour and a half plot tour and then drive an hour and a half home. I liked that. You guys should keep doing that." We had people that never came to those kinds of events viewing them online and sending us feedback of, "This is helpful." We had people using virtual tools to scout their crops and use FaceTime or equivalent on another phone and turn around and talk to their agronomist or their salesperson. And instead of waiting for somebody to come a half a day later, to look at it, you look at it in real-time and you make a decision and you treat your crop and take care of it.

 

Brett Begemann:

Those are all experiences that we're all learning from that we can't let those get away from us. And I think we'll continue to learn because it's brought technology into how we operate in a different way than maybe we thought. We jumped forward by a couple of years, maybe even three or four. And the comfort level, it's amazing. Who would've thought, right? That we could do so many things digitally, but we are and doing it very effectively. And we're all learning from each other and I think it'll keep improving. At the same time, I want to get back and see some people and walk on the farm and walk in the fields and do it, not like we did before, but still have that one-on-one because you can't solve it all virtually.

 

Jon Doggett:

Well, I was on, I think 95 or 96 separate airplanes in 2019. I don't want to go back to that. Definitely want to get on an airplane and do some things, but that kind of travel anymore. I think we've realized we don't have to do that all the time. And more importantly, we can bring new people into these meetings and give them an opportunity to see the things that they wouldn't otherwise because they can't leave the farm for half a day or a day or three days. So it's really pretty cool. And if I could just figure out a way to remind myself before I speak to take myself off mute in Zoom, I think the world would be a whole lot better.

 

Brett Begemann:

I'm confident Jon, that one of these days, somebody is going to automate that for us so that we can all be a little bit better at that because we've all had that problem more than once.

 

Dusty Weis:

Yeah. I tell you, I made some of the greatest points that nobody ever heard in the last year.

 

Brett Begemann:

It never comes out the second time as good as it did the first time, does it Dusty?

 

Dusty Weis:

Nope.

 

Jon Doggett:

Brilliance has a short shelf life, I guess so. Well, we've been talking about how the ag industry is evolving and I constantly wrestle with keeping our organization relevant as all of this change happens. And we know that agriculture is on a path to do great things and change a lot more, but we're all going to have to change with it. And so Brett, what are you doing at Bayer to be relevant? And what advice do you have for us as an organization representing corn farmers? What is some of the things you think we ought to be doing to be relevant today? And more importantly, to be relevant 20, 30 years from now?

 

Brett Begemann:

I don't know that I'm the expert. I can give you an opinion, but there's other valued opinions out there too on that, Jon. I have to tell you, I think things are changing faster now than at any time I've seen them and mostly for the good, and when things are changing that fast, we have to be careful that we don't become complacent. One of the things I share with our organization all the time is if we're not doing it different than we did last year, we're probably going backward because everybody else is moving forward. So just because we did something last year that worked really, really well, doesn't mean it's the right way to do it this year. We need to always be looking around and seeing what's changing around us and what's changing with our markets. What's changing with our opportunities. What's changing with our customers. In that, then making the decision what we need to do going forward.

 

Brett Begemann:

I think data and analytics is going to change agriculture more than probably any innovation that I've seen in my career. And I've had the fortunate luxury of living through biotechnology and arguably the acceleration of crop protection products. And I think data and digital change it more. And we have to be prepared to keep, not only keep up but lead it. And when I say lead it, as an industry leader, we have a responsibility, but also as an industry, we have a responsibility because we do use 70% of the freshwater in the world and we do use the land. And I think as an industry and an association, I think thinking about and sharing with society, how we continue to improve and the significant progress that we've made, but that we don't have it all figured out. And we're going to keep improving.

 

Brett Begemann:

The carbon models that us and other companies are talking about, I'm really excited about ours and how we can make a difference and possibly create a new value stream for farmers to farm in a different way. I think that's all cool stuff, but we got to be looking to the future and we have to be thinking about change. And as we think about that change, that's going to drive us. And I think for the association, it's a little bit the same thing. What's changing around you and what's the needs of the producers and where do we engage to represent them? What's changing in the policy world and how we manage that in the policy world? So I think there's a significant opportunity to continue to engage with all the things that we talk about as industry, but also as industry associations. And I think that's where associations can really do world-class work in representing the farmers voice.

 

Jon Doggett:

Well Brett, Bayer's acquisition of Monsanto, that's changed things a lot. And I'm curious to know how having a parent company with European roots has impacted your culture, your business and any other areas you want to mention.

 

Brett Begemann:

Yeah, it's interesting because it's one of those things that none of us knew going into it, how it would play out. And I have to tell you, one of the huge benefits in all of this is both of us were multi-national companies. And both of us were used to working in various global areas and part of the advantage that comes along with that is you have an appreciation for the different cultures around the world. I think it's oftentimes said and it's a little bit harder to practice. There's many right ways to do things and when we see somebody doing something different, oftentimes our first inclination is, well, they're doing it wrong. And the reality is, they're not doing it wrong, they're just doing it different, and it works just fine. One of the really cool things, though, when we brought these two companies together is we both had a focus on the customer.

 

Brett Begemann:

It was all about business continuity. It's all about taking care of the customer through the early days. And we've been successful in doing that. Of course, when you bring two big companies together, two of the biggest in the industry, there's going to be bumps in the road and we've had our fair share. Some of those with systems, et cetera. I'm sure there's producers within the NCGA that have been frustrated with us for things that we didn't get done and I apologize for that. When you run into those things, that's not how we intend to do business. Part of those are the vagaries of bringing companies together. We will get through that because we know the only way to earn the business is to be the easiest and best company to do business with. So we'll get through that.

 

Brett Begemann:

Culturally, we're building a new culture. So it really isn't a European culture or American culture or a Bayer culture or a Monsanto culture. When you bring these businesses together, it's really re-imagining agriculture in a way that is different for all of us, because you bring a premier seed business with a premier crop protection business with a digital platform, it changes who you are as a business and how you approach the business. And we already talked about all the enormous change going on in the industry. If we try to be like either one of us, we're going to not be successful. We have to be somebody new that matches up more with where our customer base is going and where they want to be. All the discussions around approaches to market and the omni-channels and how farmers want to get information, and they're not right or wrong either.

 

Brett Begemann:

You have to be there for each of them the way they want you to be there. And that's who we want to be as a company. And we get incredible support to be able to do that, whether we're here in the US or any other part of the world. So I don't see it as a downside, having a European headquarters. We still have close to 5,000 people working here in St. Louis in the middle of the Heartland and half of our executive teams sits here in St. Louis with me so we're well connected in the US business and fortunate for us, our customer base continues to reach out to us and share with us and give us insights. And we're working through the integration of course, but our focus is on innovation and where do we take the company for the future to increase the productivity of agriculture? We got to win for the farmer, we got a win for us as a company, and we've got to win for society. And I don't think there's a company better position to do that than we we are right now.

 

Jon Doggett:

You mentioned hearing from your farmers, and you also mentioned the global reach that your company has. What are you hearing from farmers around the world? Not just US farmers, but around the world. What are the challenges they're facing that may be similar, but more importantly, what challenges are they facing that are different than what US farmers are facing?

 

Brett Begemann:

One of the things that's the same and you mentioned it earlier, Jon and I'll just echo it. Farmers around the world need tools. And they feel this sentiment that there's as much pressure to lose tools as there is to get new innovation and new tools. And they all say, regardless of scale, and regardless of where they are geographically, that they need new tools and they need more in the toolbox. So we're all aligned on that around the world. And I think there's probably opportunity to work more globally as an industry sometimes to help communicate those points to those that may see it a bit differently than that. Some of the differences is it depends on where you're at geographically. If you think about carbon and carbon sequestration, that's a opportunity I think that fits for commercial agriculture in the Americas. Going to be more difficult in small holder world when you're talking about Asia and Africa, just because of the land holding size, et cetera, and how you would track it and develop it.

 

Brett Begemann:

So those are some of the differences, but there's also a tremendous opportunity to help and influence those. I think that one of the things we look at on the digital front is what do we learn digitally? And I think that one of the things we will learn is that while there are things that are very different, I make up my own number because I don't have any statistics behind me. But most of the time when I talk to people, 70, 80% of what we talk about is the same stuff. How much can we learn from other geographic areas of the world? And how can we get out of the cycle of we only get one shot on goal a year? There's a book written about agriculture, 40 tries or something like that. And so how do we double that?

 

Brett Begemann:

How do we learn in South America, the Southern hemisphere, and turn around and apply that in the Northern hemisphere and how you learn in the Northern hemisphere and apply in the Southern hemisphere. It's to benefit everyone and it's to benefit our industry. And I think data and analytics is going to give us the opportunity to do that because sometimes within the data, what we learn is some of the things we thought were so important, aren't near as important in influencing the outcome. And some of the things that maybe we were overlooking become more relevant. We'll learn from those kinds of things. And those are differences that turn into strikes for us as an industry and as producers.

 

Jon Doggett:

Brett, last question. Bayer is a key partner of ours and I sincerely thank you for all of your support. You're on our ag industry council, you support our corn yield contest with your decal brand. You're a partner with us on Commodity Classic and you certainly came through for us this year with a substantial investment to help us do what we needed to do with a virtual Commodity Classic. And we thank you for that. So why? Why do you do all that? Why is it important for Bayer to support commodity organizations like NCGA?

 

Brett Begemann:

There's a lot of short lines out there that everybody has their own. If you want to get something done fast, do it yourself, but if you want to go far, do it together. And I said it probably thousands of times, because I've been in this industry for so long and some people hear me repeat it and get tired of hearing it. But I view it as we're connected at the hip with farmers, because we do something for them that they probably can't do on their own in investing two and a half billion dollars in R and D and developing new innovation. But they do what we don't do very well. They produce it, they take those inputs from us and others and turn it into incredible crops that they grow. And the way we get it done is we do it together and we do it in collaboration and partnership. And industry associations are a way of continuing that collaboration and partnership and working together.

 

Brett Begemann:

And that doesn't mean that sometimes we won't sit in a conference room and have a difference of opinion. But for goodness sakes, I have difference of opinion with my wife. I have difference of opinion with my kids. So what? That's what makes us all richer and better. That's how we grow. That's how we change our thinking. That's how we move to better places is bringing those different perspectives together. I'm a huge fan of diversity and inclusion in agriculture because it makes us all better. Get as many perspectives around the table as you possibly can. Does it make it hard to get to a conclusion? Well, of course it does, but I promise you it's a better outcome. Well you get to a better place because you have the power of everybody's mind working with you to think about it.

 

Brett Begemann:

And that's how I see it with the corn growers and the other commodity associations, let's work together on this stuff. And we can have our differences of opinion, but at the end of the day, the vast majority of what helps either of us is going to help both of us. I say it all the time. We'll never be more successful as Bayer Crop Science than our farmer customers. It just doesn't work. In this model, it doesn't work. If farmers are not successful, how are we going to be? Because every dollar of cashflow or Euro that we spend in this company comes from a customer somewhere in the world. Sure, the capital market capitalizes us as a company, but our cashflow comes from selling products and services. So we're in this thing together and we want farmers to be as successful as they can be. And it takes give and take. And the way you figure out give and take, is you sit down together and you talk about things.

 

Jon Doggett:

Brett Begemann, the chief operating officer at Bayer Crop Science and a farmer. Thank you for joining us on the NCGA podcast. We appreciate everything that you've done and we certainly appreciate you being with us today. I'm Jon Doggett, the CEO of the National Corn Growers Association. Thanks for listening, and tune in again soon for another episode of Wherever Jon May Roam, the NCGA podcast.

 

Dusty Weis:

That is going to wrap up this edition of Wherever Jon May Roam, the National Corn Growers Association podcast. New episodes arrive monthly, so make sure to subscribe on your favorite app and join us again soon. Visit ncga.com to learn more or sign up for the associations' email newsletter. Wherever Jon May Roam is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association and produced by Podcamp media, branded podcast production for businesses, podcampmedia.com, with editing by Larry Kilgore, the Third. For the National Corn Growers Association, thanks for listening, I'm Dusty Weis.