July 22, 2014

Corn Congress Leadership Mission...From the Intern

The group on the roof of USGC/NCGA building at CornFest
Corn Congress is a semi-annual event where corn industry representatives come together and determine policy for the year, elect new National Corn Board members, recognize achievements, and converse about new industry developments. The Nebraska Corn Board (NCB) invests heavily on the youth of today, because they know that they are the leaders of tomorrow. Last year, NCB inaugurated a leadership mission by sending eight delegates to travel to Washington, D.C. to attend Corn Congress, partake in industry tours, and learn about policy and the issues of today. Delegates must be/have been a part of FFA, 4-H, or the LEAD program. They must apply and be chosen for the leadership mission, with expectations of being engaged through asking questions, meeting new people, and filing a final report.

Last year, I was lucky enough to be chosen to attend. My whole outlook on agriculture was changed. I began to realize how much of a cooperative effort it takes to organize so many people with so many views. I also got to meet part of the Corn Board team (and get to know them pretty well as we got stranded in Detroit the day it went bankrupt. Ahh…the joys of travel!)

This past May, I became the communications and outreach intern for the Corn Board. NCB thought that I would be an asset to organizing the second leadership mission, since I knew what to expect from last summer. I helped by lining up meeting rooms in the Capitol Event Center, choosing and corresponding with the new leadership team, setting up the schedule, leading the group around WDC, etc. Even though I had learned a lot in the year prior, I was excited to help give the fresh group of individuals an awesome experience and learn more myself.

This year’s delegates included: Keith Borer, Elgin, Nebraska; Ryan Broderson, Randolph, Nebraska; Nicole D’Angelo, Auburn, California; Kerry McPheeters, Gothenburg, Nebraska; Jolene Messinger, McCook, Nebraska; Andy Method, Decatur, Nebraska; Joel Miller, Hampton, Nebraska; Glen Ready, Scribner, Nebraska; and Courtney Spilker, Beatrice, Nebraska.

Corn Congress was held on July 16th and 17th. However, the group flew out early to participate in industry visits with Iowa representatives. We were able to tour Wye Angus, Arnold Vegetable Farm, Nagel Cucumber Operation, and Kenny Bros Grading Station. The group was especially enthusiastic about Nagel’s Cucumber Operation, because watching cucumbers get combined is not an everyday Nebraska occurrence. We also enjoyed watching them get washed and sorted into different sizes at the grading station. Who knew that so much work goes into the cucumber slices on your salad?
Nebraska and Iowa leadership delegates at Nagel's cucumber farm

Cucumber Harvester
On Wednesday, Corn Congress was finally underway. We got to hear about big issues such as the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS), Waters of the United States (WOTUS), GMO labeling, trade, livestock industries, and tax extenders. Another highlight of the morning session was our very own Executive Director, Don Hutchens, being honored for 27 years of dedication to the corn industry by the National Corn Growers Association.

The afternoon was jam-packed with meetings with our Congressmen and women. We met with Senator Fischer, Representative Adrian Smith, Senator Johanns, and a representative from Lee Terry’s office. The delegates embraced this unique opportunity to ask our lawmakers anything that they wanted to and learned a lot more about the political process.
Senator Johanns addresses the group

After that, we were able to mingle with corn industry leaders from across the country at CornFest. This social hour is held in the U.S. Grains Council and National Corn Growers building. CornFest provides an excellent opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and network with a corn grower from a different state where practices can be very different.

To end the evening, leadership mission delegates and NCB/ NeCGA members/staff got the chance to sit down for supper and learn more about each other. This was a refreshing end to the day and provided the opportunity for reflection and good company.

NCB intern, Morgan Zumpfe, and American Farm Bureau (AFBF) intern, Alix Mashino both took part in the leadership mission last year and were able to catch up during tours this year at AFBF
Our last day in Washington D.C. was again filled with lots of information. In the morning, we went to the offices of the Foreign Agricultural Service at the USDA, American Farm Bureau Federation, and the U.S. Grains Council. These three experiences opened delegates eyes to how global our world is, and how important trade is. As leadership delegate and University of Nebraska-Lincoln student Kerry McPheeters said, “For as much depressing news that seems to come out of Washington, it was certainly encouraging to see the number of people that are working tirelessly for the greater good of agriculture.”

The afternoon was spent in the final Corn Congress meetings, where final policy was enacted and ending remarks were made. Despite a few plane delays, all Nebraskan representatives made it back to “The Good Life” safe and energized by Corn Congress.

I think that Nebraska should be really proud of leadership team that was sent out to represent them last week. All delegates gained an insurmountable amount of knowledge that will empower them to become better leaders of tomorrow. The combined experiences helped the delegates understand how important it is to get involved in leadership positions, because if we don’t step up, who will? Leadership delegate and corn farmer Ryan Broderson remarked, “On this leadership trip to WDC, I was inspired to become a NeCGA member. The power of this grassroots organization is outstanding.”

Leadership mission delegates on Capitol Hill

I am so thankful and blessed that I was able to experience Corn Congress twice. I feel better equipped to tackle my classes at UNL and understand how important it is to know the issues and be involved. I am confident that my experiences through the Nebraska Corn Board will pay dividends toward my future.

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