This week, the National Corn Growers Association participated in a roundtable that brought experts from various areas within agriculture to Kansas City for a discussion of upcoming issues that will impact agriculture. Focusing on issues such as the sustainability of utilizing corn stover as a biofuels feed stock, increasing grain exports from the Black Sea region and the future of ethanol, these discussions helped both the host and participants develop a more comprehensive view of the potential impacts of developing situations.

"By sharing insight into the issues NCGA thinks will influence the national corn industry and exploring the variety of ideas these experts brought to the table, we are able to create a more comprehensive look at what must be dealt with today in order to create the best possible scenario for our farmers tomorrow," said Vice President of Production and Utilization Paul Bertels, who represented the organization. "Each participant brings a unique understanding of their particular field, be it special circumstances faced by growers in Nebraska or Illinois or a detailed knowledge of exports, energy or other related markets that help us piece together the broader picture much as one might a puzzle. With farmers today involved in such a variety of activities and affected by national and international factors at the farm level, it is crucial we present our leadership with the best possible knowledge to use as they develop the policies that guide NCGA."

The roundtable, organized by the ProExporter Network, began with presentations from Doug Karlen of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service and Wayne Parman of Jefferies Bach, a global securities and investment banking group. Karlen looked at the sustainability of using corn stover for a biofuels feed stock, concluding that the amount which can be sustainably removed is significantly lower than that laid out in the Department of Energy's initial Billion Ton Study. Utilizing information from the DAM project, organized by John Deere, Archer Daniels Midland and Monsanto, he noted that there are many issues with the use of stover as a feedstock for biofuels. These issues include limited days for stover removal in the fall, increased fertilizer expenses, and the need for variable rate removal.

Parman then discussed a recent surge in competition resulting from increased grain exports from the Black Sea region. Despite a short supply of capital and antiquated farm equipment and elevators, all major grain traders have developed export facilities in this. Pacific Rim nations such as China, Taiwan and Japan have begun importing Black Sea corn due as it is currently trading at a significant discount to U.S. corn. Raising the question is this "the third Corn Belt", Parman and several other roundtable participants speculate once capital is invested, the region will continue corn production and expansion of its exporter status.