Word on Wheat: Stepping Up the Ladder of Leadership

March 13, 2009 Bookmark and Share

Karl Scronce, NAWG President

When I first began representing Oregon on the NAWG Board of Directors in 2002, I would not have said becoming the organization’s president was my long-term goal. For me, rising in the ranks of leadership has closely resembled climbing up a ladder; one step led to another, along with great support and encouragement from friends and colleagues, until I made the commitment in the spring of 2006 to be NAWG officer.

Two weeks ago, I took over as the president of NAWG. I have spent good parts of the last three years considering what I need to do to be a good president, what strengths and weaknesses our organization has and what I really want to see done during my term.

I have a list of attributes I believe are important to achieving success in NAWG leadership. Our officers, especially, must first have a passion for agriculture and farming and be able to look forward toward a positive future for our industry. NAWG leaders also have to educate themselves about the different classes of wheat and where they are grown because we have such diversity within our ranks – and I am working on that one! We in the officer corps, especially, also have to be ready for an adventure, because every year is one, even as the dominant issues change.

We have to be able package our differences into strengths. Communication, for example, is both key to our success and a challenge in our organization. We are spread across the whole country; time zones can create problems trying to do something as basic as scheduling a meeting. On the other hand, with the differing planting dates and work schedules of the grower representatives in our 20 member-states, we can always get support in Washington, D.C., when needed.

A strong committee structure is perhaps our greatest strength as an organization. A farmer in any of our states associations can bring a good policy idea forward through the process, starting at the county level, then moving to the state and national levels. NAWG policy committees led by NAWG Board members make a lot of our policy, which is truly grassroots.

Working through these committees and with our staff in Washington, I would like to see some tangible accomplishments in my one-year term as NAWG president.

First, I want to see a farmer in Merrill, Ore., or Red Springs, N.C., walk into a USDA office and be able to successfully sign up for the commodity title programs for which he or she is eligible. This may sound basic, but is absolutely necessary.

I want to see agriculture be a solution in the upcoming climate change debate. Farming practices that support carbon sequestration in the soil in a voluntary, incentives-based program are optimal. I also want to move toward giving farmers the option to sell their straw to cellulosic ethanol refineries, replacing the need to burn stubble residue.

I want to see continued scientific research in wheat, both through conventional breeding programs and progress in introducing a biotech trait in wheat. I also want to see young farmers continuing to enter the profession and getting involved by joining their state wheat association and NAWG.

As my term begins, I owe a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has helped me get to the NAWG presidency, especially my understanding wife, Brenda. I firmly believe the NAWG executive team is ready to help steer this organization in a direction that best facilitates positive change in our industry, and I look forward to continued movement up the ladder of progress.

– Scronce is a wheat producer in Klamath Falls, Ore.