Opinion: Adjusting to Life in the New Abnormal

Opinion by Jon Doggett, CEO

National Corn Growers Association

Unless you started the year with a lot of stock in Zoom, 2020 has got to be a unanimous choice for everyone’s least favorite year. It followed a rough ride in 2019 that most in the corn industry won’t soon forget.

You live. You learn. You move on. That’s life.

My experience is you learn the most from the hard times. Since we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of some of the hardest times I can recall, I thought it might be worth sharing some of the things I’ve learned half-way through the year.

  • Never ever say it can’t get any worse. I’m pretty sure I said something like that this time last year, when the corn industry was besieged by a combination of bad weather and market disruptions that pushed us to the brink. The pandemic proved quite clearly to me that things can always get worse.
  • Don’t assume something won’t work. The idea of hosting several hundred corn farmers on a virtual policy-setting meeting – or Corn Congress as we know it – was unthinkable a few months ago. Had it crossed my mind then, I’m sure I would have said it’ll never work. Just last week, we held our first ever virtual Corn Congress. It was pretty amazing. The adaptability of our farmers was as impressive as the technology that enabled it.
  • Opportunity is present in every difficulty. The virtual world we find ourselves in is nobody’s first choice. But it has created opportunities to expand our reach. Zoom, or whatever your favorite virtual platform may be, has enabled us to connect with growers we’ve missed and policymakers we may not know. That’s a tremendous opportunity for us to grow if we choose to see it that way.
  • When you get knocked down, get up. We haven’t missed a beat when it comes to driving demand for America’s corn farmers. In fact we started off the year on tear, passing USMCA, our top legislative priority, and clearing the way for increased corn sales to China through the Phase I deal. COVID may have knocked us down a bit, but we just started developing a market recovery plan that will help us get back up on our feet.

Relevance is a thing all brands wrestle with, and our organization isn’t any different. And while everyone’s formula for relevance is clearly different, it sure strikes me that being better at being virtual has become a key ingredient we all share right now. Noåt as a replacement to the things that have brought us to this point, but as an additive feature that will propel us forward into the future.

All of us are eager to get back to normal soon, or on to the new normal, whatever that may be. As we do, I sure hope we don’t forget the abnormal things we’ve discovered along the way that can make us better and more relevant to the people we serve.

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