(Posted Fri. Sep 27th, 2013)

Sept. 27: As the fiscal year comes to an end, the National Corn Growers Association’s Corn Board prepares to seat new members and officers on October 1.  When the 2013 Executive Committee steps down, NCGA Chairman Garry Niemeyer will complete his term on the Corn Board, passing the role of chairwoman to current President Pam Johnson.


The Off the Cob podcast series sat down with Niemeyer to discuss his insight into the future, which he bases in what he learned over the past three years, and to discuss how members can work together to make NCGA an even more effective advocate for farmers. 


To listen to the full interview, please click here.


Reflecting upon his time on the Corn Board, Niemeyer explained that, while NCGA works simultaneously on a multitude of issues, it is crucial that the organization pushes ahead on farm bill legislation.


“While NCGA has many issues out there we must address, one of our biggest priorities out there now is getting a five-year farm bill passed,” said Niemeyer. “Our inability to do so for the past few years was probably my greatest frustration during my time as an officer. Crop insurance remains our top priority in a farm bill. Ironically, looking at my own operation, I realized that I have had crop insurance for twenty years, but I had never received a payment until the weather in my area became difficult during the past two or three years. It may be easy to forget how important crop insurance actually is, but it is incredibly important to have when you need it.”


In addition to the farm bill, he stressed the importance of remaining vigilant in efforts to defend and grow the ethanol industry.


“One of the things that I think of as farmers’ secret weapon in maintaining profitable farms is ethanol,” said Niemeyer. “Back in 2005, we had an 11.1 billion bushel corn crop. This year, if USDA estimates hold true, our crop will reach 13.8 billion bushels. That is almost three billion more bushels.


“In 2005, we pushed for the creation of the Renewable Fuel Standard to grow the ethanol, and thus the corn farming, industry. We wanted to decrease our nation’s dependence on foreign oil and to clean up our air and water.  Looking back, we have accomplished so much through the RFS. In 2005, we were 68 percent dependent upon foreign oil.  Now, we have reduced that to 40 percent. The RFS is accomplishing the goals it was put in place to reach.


“We must continue to fight to preserve these accomplishments and never give up. I ask every corn farmer to think back to what our industry was like before the RFS came into place. If we do not remain as vigilant in our defense as our enemies do in their attacks, we could see those days yet again. I hope that everybody pays attention, really close attention, and aids our state and national corn boards to continue our defense of the RFS.”


Niemeyer, who will continue working for farmers as a board member of the Waterways Council, Inc., explained the importance of keeping infrastructure projects at the forefront.


“In 1995, when I joined the Illinois Corn Growers Association, I was asked where I haul my grain off to,” Niemeyer said. “I explained that a lot of it goes down the Illinois River. So, they asked if I would lead some of their efforts to upgrading the locks and dams along that river. I went to the Meredosia locks and dams, the ones in my area, and I thought that this project would be a piece of cake. The concrete is crumbling. The miter gates are leaking. Anyone could see that the infrastructure here was built in the 1930s. This ought to be like shooting fish in a barrel.


“In 2007, with the help of a coalition including the environmental and labor communities, we got the Water Resources Reform and Development Act passed. That was an authorization bill. One thing that you learn when working in Washington is that there are two types of bills. An authorization bill means that you can move forward, but it takes an appropriations bill to get the projects built. Now, we are working to get the House to pass that appropriations bill, which has already been passed by the Senate.”


Niemeyer also discussed the ongoing nature of many programs, such as the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, Corn Farmers Coalition and CommonGround, stressing the importance of maintaining an open dialogue with the public. He then called upon his fellow corn farmers to stand with NCGA and become part of the efforts that benefit American agriculture.


“This is a big country that we live in. There are a lot of regional differences. There are even a lot of differences of opinion within the states. As an organization, we are most effective when we are unified. To pass any kind of legislation in the future, we are going to have to be unified and form coalitions with some groups which we may not be used to working with in the past. But, that is the way it is going to be in the future.


“I know that I leave this organization in great hands. We’ve got a very capable officer team coming on board, and the full NCGA Corn Board is quite dynamic. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with such an amazing team and make friends all over the country, and even the world, as a NCGA officer.


“We have a bright future. We have laid the groundwork already. Now, it’s time to bring home the bacon. Let’s get some of these bills passed.”