Monday, March 7, 2011

The Commodity Classic

This last week I was at the Commodity Classic (CC) in Tampa, Florida. No, I did not see the NFL negotiations taking place, but I did witness some great things. The CC is the host for the annual meetings of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), the American Soybean Association (ASA), and the National Sorghum Producers (NSP).

As the newest executive board member of the Idaho Grain Producers Association (IGPA) I attended committee meetings and the annual meeting of NAWG. This is where the member states make policy and set budgets for the coming year. I also witnessed former IGPA president Wayne Hurst take over as the NAWG President. I wish him the greatest success.

While there I also presented at the PrecisionAg Works booth. This is the second year I have done that and enjoy telling growers and anybody that will listen about the benefits that precision ag brings to farms and the environment. It is always great seeing the folks that promote precision ag like Paul Schrimpf (Meister Media), Bob Wanzel, Kim McCloskey, Elliot Knowels, and Dan Bellinger. These are great people that do a wonderful job for agriculture.

Seeing people that you know everyday at the conference is a great experience. A person might not see them very often, but it is always a pleasure when you do. One such person is Doug Jones who is the executive director of Growers for Biotechnology and a former Idaho Legislator and House Agriculture chairman. Doug and I serve on the Idaho Technology Council's Governmental Affairs committee.

It is also great to reconnect with people from previous functions like Marcia Taylor of DTN/Progressive Farmer. Marcia was on the review committee during my Eisenhower Fellowship interview and was a moderator for a breakout session at the CC dealing with Succession Planning. I also reconnected with Pam Fretwell of the Farm Journal Agriculture Foundation whom I met at the 2009 InfoAg convention in Springfield, Illinois.

This year provided a neat experience of connecting with Facebook friends. These are people that have much in common that I have not met. Stacy and Troy Hadrick are a great spokescouple for agriculture and were the highlight of a breakout session titled "Discovering Your Influential Power." I was able to get a picture of them with Flat Andy and you can connect with them at their website Advocates for Agriculture.

However it is the new people that you meet that really makes the CC a great event. I am thankful to Marcia Taylor for introducing me to Dan Miller (Senior editor) and Jack Odle (Publisher) of DTN/Progressive Farmer. I was introduced to Jay Vroom (President and CEO) of CropLife America by Elliot Knowels and had a great conversation. And by a chance meeting I chatted with Greg Vincent, editor of AgWeb.

Outside of connecting with people was Friday's General Session. This is an event that is attended by a few thousand farmers and agriculturalists. It started off by moderator and comedian Mark Mayfield interviewed each association's president about various issues. Then the highlight...U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee Chairmain Frank Lucas (OK) and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack each spoke. What a great opportunity to listen and learn from the top people in agriculture about issues not only about agriculture, but America as well.

Finally, my most cherished moment was what took place after a breakout session highlighting the "Future of Wheat" sponsored by Bayer Crop Science. Former USDA Secretary Clayton Yeutter spoke about the future of wheat and what the climate for agriculture will be like. I took his picture and posted it on Facebook and received a few comments, one being from his assistant, Jim Moseley. The Honorable Jim Moseley was the chairman of the committee for my interview with the Eisenhower Fellowship. To have a mentor like Jim is just awesome.

Where is all of this leading? The CC brings out the top people in agriculture and provides a great opportunity to meet and learn from them. These people are working hard to promote agriculture and to provide a better climate for the industry; from associations to media to companies.

The ability to listen and learn about almost any topic you are interested in cannot be underestimated and are hosted by these top people those of us in ag see each month or daily in magazines, websites, or alerts. Not only that, but to mingle and talk to them is very easy.

To me CC stands for Commodity Connections instead of Classic. I might have more contact with some than others throughout the year and some connections are just brief, but to have the ability to contact someone that is an expert in a certain area is invaluable. This is what makes agriculture such a great industry, we understand that we are all in it together and work hard for everyone to be successful, especially the farmer on the ground.

The information that is available is second to none and the ability to sit in on your commodity organizations committees or annual meeting is a great learning experience. Also, the importance of the organizations fun night centered around the PAC (Political Action Committee) is very important.

All in all, it was a great time and "Vacation." As far as "vacations" go, I pretty much just see four walls but in different rooms and buildings. Now back to the reality of farm life and snow.

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