NAWG Officers Share Take-Aways from 2009 State Conventions

January 8, 2010 Bookmark and Share

Each fall, NAWG officers travel to conventions and annual meetings held by NAWG’s affiliated state associations. These trips are perennial opportunities to connect with the grass-roots and hear what’s really happening in the countryside.

Here, three of NAWG’s five sitting officers respond to the question, “What’s the most interesting thing you heard or learned this year while visiting the NAWG state association meetings?”

Karl Scronce from Klamath Falls, Ore., NAWG President

It always amazes me when I travel to the different states how knowledgeable farmers are concerning different issues. Some individuals are so knowledgeable I find a new go-to person – when I need to know something on a particular issue, that is who I call. I look at that as one of NAWG’s valuable assets. Anybody that has survived the tough years in farming has a level of street smarts that can’t be taught in a classroom. They totally understand where our public policy needs to be in ag.

When I traveled to the northern part of the Plains in December with snow on the ground and saw they were still harvesting corn, I thought, how crazy is that! My definition of high risk and those farmers’ definitions are very different. This reinforces to me that we need biotechnology in our wheat varieties. Those areas were meant to grow wheat, but because of the potential higher returns in corn, that is what they grow. I realize I wasn’t around when their wheat crops were growing and head blight was wreaking havoc with potentially good yields. But I am also sure those growers lose profit margin to diseases that could be remedied by advanced breeding and biotech.

Jerry McReynolds from Woodston, Kan., NAWG First Vice President

I think we can always learn a lot by going to state conventions. It’s very important and educational to talk to states, so you never want to pass up that opportunity.

I saw again how state organizations and their members are very in tune with our policy, they’re interested in it, and they’re working at making it better on the state level. I really appreciate what they are doing in the policy area.

Some states have really tremendous Commodity Classic-like programs that are very educational and informative. I was impressed with how some states organize their meetings – they run excellent programs and are doing really good things. I was also impressed with how some states are working together internally. The Colorado commission and association, for example, work together very well.

Many of the producers I talked to told me that harvest was tough and winter is tough. There is concern on climate change and water issues. At that time, health care was a big thing, and there’s concern about our school systems. There’s just a lot of uncertainty. We know as producers that we have to make the bottom line work, so when you translate that back to running a country, we know printing money isn’t the best way.

Erik Younggren from Hallock, Minn., NAWG Secretary-Treasurer

A big thing I noticed at the meetings I attended was grower enthusiasm for biotech and interest in how state universities can work with private tech providers. The states are seeing the value they have built up in developing the germplasm, and tech providers want access to that germplasm. How to make that happen is the topic at hand. Who gets paid what and how? If and when a variety is released with biotech traits, will the germplasm be the biggest component for price or the technology inserted into it?

I also found interesting what Nebraska has done with their mobile bakery. They brought the bakery to the state fair where farmers connected with kids and urbanites that never would have seen such a thing before, hopefully giving them a better appreciation of what we do for them. I wish other states could do the same thing, though it costs a lot of money and personal time to do what they do.

Communication was also on all the agendas. Growers are getting a sense of what the public is seeing about farmers and how what others are saying on Twitter, Facebook and on blogs is influencing what the public thinks about farmers. My hope is growers will be energized to engage in the discussion.