The National Corn Growers Association’s Trade Policy and Biotechnology Action Team was created in 2010 by the unification of two existing action teams. Seeing that trade issues facing the corn industry most often involved a biotechnology component, leadership saw it prudent to create a single group to explore these issues and develop an in-depth understanding of the nuanced areas of overlap involved.
In 2012, the team, along with state and national staff assistance, will face many important issues as they advocate for cooperation across the biotechnology value chain, provide innovative, cutting-edge tools to help farmers act as responsible stewards of biotechnology products, and support trade agreements that benefit U.S. agriculture and the national economy.
“We made major progress in 2011 when the U.S. ratified free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama, launched an updated version of our online IRM refuge calculator and opened a dialogue with groups from across the value chain on biotechnology and trade, but it is essential that we continue to build on our progress in each of these areas,” said South Dakota corn farmer Chad Blindauer, who chairs the team. “We challenge ourselves at each meeting to find innovative opportunities to further open markets to U.S. corn and help cutting-edge technology reach the farmers who desire it.”
In 2012, the team will improve upon the already available IRM refuge calculator both through ongoing updates and the launch of a new learning module this spring.
“Our team is excited about the IRM learning module, which will incorporate video and interactive elements,” Blindauer said. “As farmers, we all strive to act as good stewards of our land and to use biotechnology products in a responsible manner that maintains their effectiveness. The module serves as an educational tool for growers looking for information on refuge requirements and their function, and also benefits the vast majority of growers already effectively following refuge requirements who want to reaffirm their existing understanding.”
As farmers continue to produce a bountiful crop, the importance of maintaining and developing new markets abroad grows. The team supports movement in the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, which would result in an Asia-Pacific multilateral trade agreement.
“We have come a long way in breaking down barriers which impeded the growth of U.S. corn exports, but there is still much work to be done,” said Blindauer. “With new agreements in place that open growing markets for farmers, we must focus on the next generation of trade agreements that will further this mission.”
In addition to Blindauer, team members include Vice Chair Jim Zimmerman of Wisconsin, Corn Board Liaison Bob Bowman of Iowa, Daniel Ebelhar of Kentucky, Chris Edgington of Iowa, Robert Gordon of Texas, Joel Grams of Nebraska, David Howell of Indiana, Donna Jeschke of Illinois, Scott Miller of Michigan, Gary Schmalshof of Illinois, David Ward of Minnesota, U.S Grains Council Representative of Missouri, and Jared Coppess of the Indiana Corn Growers Association.
This story is the second in a series looking at the challenges and opportunities to be faced by NCGA’s action teams and committees in the months ahead.