As the fiscal year comes to an end, the National Corn Growers Association’s Corn Board gets ready to seat new members and officers on October 1. When the 2011 Executive Committee steps down, NCGA Chairman Darrin Ihnen will retire from service following three outstanding years of leadership as first vice president, president, and, finally, Corn Board chairman.
The Off the Cob podcast series sat down with Ihnen to discuss his tenure on the Corn Board, the accomplishments he found most rewarding, and to ask his advice for farmers considering volunteering for leadership roles.
To listen to the full interview, please click here.
Reflecting upon his time on the Corn Board, Ihnen explained that the strength of the overall organization lies within each of its members and their ability to work together for the common good.
“It has truly been an honor to serve my fellow farmers in this way,” he said. “The great thing about the National Corn Growers Association is that it really is driven by all of the members across the countryside. Any single one can go from being a state director to a committee chair to the president of the national association. Every one of us has that opportunity, and it really says something for the way that NCGA is structured.”
Ihnen went on to explain that, of all of the accomplishments over the past years, he is most proud of the association’s ability to act as a catalyst for collaboration.
“Looking back it has been a great experience,” he said. “We had our challenges, but over the last three years, we accomplished so much because we were able to facilitate, moderate and bring groups together for the common good, as we did for the ethanol industry and in the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. So many organizations have great ideas and are doing very positive things for corn and agriculture. By forming cooperative relationships, we pooled resources, pooled brainpower and came up with some great ideas and organizations to help better all corn growers.”
A veteran grower-leader, Ihnen advises anyone considering volunteering for a state or national board to do so without hesitation.
“If you want to get into leadership at the state or national level, the most important thing is just to do it,” he said. “We are really our only advocates. If we are not out there advocating, those who do may not have the same message, or they may even be anti-agriculture or anti-corn. So, don’t hold back. If you think that there is an opportunity or if you think that you want to represent an organization, just get involved.”
Stressing the importance of involvement, he goes on to explain why farmers are so effective as advocates.
“Once you start, you have the chance to interact with politicians and regulators who really want to hear the voice of an actual farmer,” he elucidates. Looking forward, ihnen sees challenges for tomorrow’s leaders, but also advises the challenges must be faced to ensure that farmers continue to have a voice in the government that so deeply impacts their industry.
“We are going to continue to have our challenges in Washington and with the political process in 2012,” he said. “Unfortunately, in this time of tight budgets, it doesn’t matter if you have a great program, a poor program or even great ideas, it is difficult to get anything to move in this Congress because of budget considerations. We need to find ways to work within a very tight budgetary situation. If we are willing to compromise and find ways to sacrifice, we have a chance to pass programs and legislation that will help develop the economy while helping corn growers across the country.”
In conclusion, Ihnen stresses that, while he dedicated his time and efforts to service, he feels both he and his entire family are enriched by the experience.
“It has been a great opportunity not only for me, but also for my family too,” said Ihnen. “We all had a great opportunity to interact with farmers from across the country. I can truly say that some of our very best friends are out there in states besides South Dakota. The many people who have become part of our lives over these years and through this experience are truly a blessing.”