(Posted Thu. Jan 30th, 2014)

Corn farmers from across the country traveled to Washington this week to take part in the second phase of the annual leadership development programs co-sponsored by the National Corn Growers Association and Syngenta. The Leadership At Its Best attendees were joined by participants in Advanced Leadership, also co-sponsored by Syngenta, for a separate program offering high-level training for a select group of Leadership At Its Best graduates. While in town, both groups visited numerous members of the Senate and House of Representatives and got an inside look at parliamentary procedure and how lobbying works on Capitol Hill.


“For more than a quarter of a century, Leadership At Its Best has been an invaluable tool for helping corn growers become leaders at the state and national level, and the newer Advanced Leadership program offers an exciting way to build upon this training ,” said NCGA President Martin Barbre, himself a graduate of the program. Barbre and NCGA First Vice President Chip Bowling came to Washington to welcome the class and provide an update on NCGA’s issues and programs. “In Washington, we can see first-hand – and very quickly – how decisions made here impact us back on the farm. Having a strong voice here in the capital is very important for NCGA and its farmer members.”


The Leadership At Its Best class received briefings from NCGA staffers on the issues facing America’s farmers in the coming year followed by presentations from lobbyist and Hill staffer panels explaining how the lobbying process functions in the Capitol and how to get the best result from interaction with members of Congress and their staff. They then had the opportunity to see the process in action during a series of visits with Congressional leaders. Additionally, the group participated in parliamentary procedure training with NCGA Parliamentarian Chris Dickey.


The Advanced Leadership Academy class underwent extensive media training and explored consumer attitudes during sessions with industry experts. The participants delved into the workings of government agencies during visits to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency where they met with USDA Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden and EPA Senior Agricultural Counselor Sarah Bittleman respectively.


This year’s Leadership At Its Best class includes James Burg (S.D.), Don Duvall (Ill.), Chris Edgington (Iowa), Chuck Emanuel (Neb.), Philip Gordon (Mich.), Rick Gruber (Neb.), Kenneth Hartman, Jr. (Ill.), Scott Hays (Mo.), Gail Lierer (Ohio),  Patty Mann (Ohio), Randy Melvin (N.D.), Jerry Mohr (Iowa), Thomas Mueller (Ill.), Bradley Schad (Mo.), Mark Sponsler (Co.), and Harold Wolle, Jr. (Minn.).


The Advanced Leadership Academy class includes Jed Bower (Ohio), Bill Christ (Ill.), Jerry Demmer (Minn.), John Linder (Ohio), Bruce Rohwer (Iowa), and Chad Willis (Minn.).


Phase one of Leadership At Its Best takes place in August and includes sessions on media training, public speaking, business etiquette and meeting management. The Advanced Leadership program, which provides further learning opportunities for growers more established in leadership, held its first session in September in Greensboro, N.C. Applications for Leadership At Its Best and for Advanced Leadership will be available in February from state and national offices.