SAINT LOUIS, MISSOURI - Dozens of corn growers who are respected leaders in their industry and actively involved in the National Corn Growers Association gathered in St. Louis last week for a round of meetings to begin work on their issue areas for 2011. Over the course of the week the growers not only delved into the issues that will significantly impact growers in the months ahead, they also formed the relationships and bonds that bring about the cohesive, forward-thinking leadership for which the organization is known.

"Coming together as a group to hash out new ideas and explore our current situation always reinvigorates our leadership," said NCGA President Bart Schott. "Leaving the meetings, I feel confident that our organization is headed in the right direction. In 2011, we will redouble efforts to bring the various groups working in support of agriculture together and continue to act as a catalyst for collaboration across our industry."

NCGA's six action teams and committees define, implement and measure program actions in their areas of expertise – biotechnology and trade policy, ethanol, public policy, production and stewardship, research and business development, and grower services.

The Biotechnology and Trade Policy Action team covered a broad array of issues, including refuge management, new biotech traits and pending trade agreements. With notable speakers including trade and farm policy experts and representatives from tech companies, the group delved into policy issues including the pending trade agreement with Korea. Team members also took time to explore the new insect resistance management refuge calculator NCGA, in conjunction with many key agribusiness players, launched earlier this month.

The Ethanol Committee held lengthy discussions regarding the changing political landscape in Washington with the arrival of the new Congress and how it may affect NCGA's goals and priorities. Additionally, several outside speakers presented new information and analysis on issues from the real versus perceived impact of growing ethanol use on food prices and the growing volume of information regarding the theory of International Land Use Change. A growing body of research evidence shows ILUC is more theory than fact.

"I was very proud of my team for the level of participation from everyone," said Public Policy Action Team Chair Anthony Bush while speaking of his team's anticipation of upcoming major legislation. "We look forward to working with the next Congress on the 2012 farm bill." The Production and Stewardship Action Team heard from water quality consultant Sally Shaver on the Chesapeake Bay USDA Report and Natural Resources Conservation Service Comparisons. Transportation was also a topic of discussion for PSAT. The grower leaders discussed the need to educate new members of the House on issues related to the Upper Mississippi.

Highlights of Research and Business Development Action Team discussions included preparations for the next CUTC meeting to take place in 2012. Team members also heard from Dr. Dennis Miller of Michigan State University who made a presentation on using ethanol as a procurer to advanced biofuels and specialty chemicals.

The Grower Services Action Team met and considered several proposals for possible new member benefits. In addition, the team received reports on NCGA's image and activism programs, as well as member services, such as the scholarship program, and basic and advanced leadership training programs. A guest speaker from Monsanto presented details on the company's America's Farmers campaign.

NCGA leadership will meet again in St. Louis January 12-14 for the annual Priority and Policy meeting. During this session, farmer-leaders representing the state affiliates look at priorities for the upcoming fiscal year and determine priority recommendations that will be presented to the Corn Board for consideration.

SOURCE: National Corn Growers Association