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Agrimarketing : May 2008 Special Supplement
T he National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), Chester- field, MO, Chief Executive Offi- cer (CEO) Rick Tolman and his staff are on a mission: to create and increase opportunities for corn growers. To say they are accomplishing it would be an understatement. Despite the 2007 crop being the second largest on record in the U.S., corn prices have been well over $5 per bushel for the past six months and futures prices even popped up over the $6 mark recently for the first time ever. Many commodity market analysts say this new price level may be sustainable for the foreseeable future. In fact, last year, corn passed beef production as the most valuable ag commodity produced in the U.S, generating nearly $52 billion in rev- enue compared to $49 billion. Driving the prices to new heights is the increasing record usage of the crop (see Table 1). Most of the increased consumption can be cred- ited to the work of NCGA’s state affiliates, Tolman and his staff. For these successes on behalf of the nation’s corn producers and the ag industry, Tolman was named the National Agri-Marketing Associa- tion’s (NAMA) 2008 AgriBuisness Leader of the Year. “There have been a lot of positive changes in the corn industry as it evolves and grows,” Tolman says. “But I certainly can’t take all of the credit. It has taken all parties to chart the course and to do their part.” Those parties include corn pro- ducers, the crop input industry, stor- age and handling, farm equipment, livestock feeders, shippers, proces- sors, exporters, organizations devel- oping products utilizing new uses of corn, and, of course, consumers. WELCOME ABOARD Tolman’s career at NCGA got off to a fast start. Two weeks after he joined the organization, the StarLink cata- strophe hit. Starlink, a Bt-based strain that provided corn resistance to several insects had been approved by the Federal Drug Administration for use in livestock feed, but not for human consumption where, unfortunately, it was found. “Everybody in the indus- try was caught off guard by the Star- Link affair,” Tolman says. “And that included corn producers. NCGA didn’t have a policy concerning biotech products when it hit.” Under Tolman’s leadership, it didn’t take long for NCGA to develop one. “We quickly formed the Biotechnology Working Group,” Tolman says. “It developed NCGA’s Biotech Acceptance Policy. That pol- icy embraces biotech in a rational way but places parameters around the products’ introduction to the market. “We believe it has been very suc- cessful. It has provided industry guidance on what NCGA will, and won’t support. So, now that every- body is working with the same rules, it has created a much larger pipeline of new products that will benefit corn growers and brings discipline to the market place that provides protection to our markets and con- sumers.” Just as recent as last year, the pol- icy was tested, once again and proved to be effective. A company’s new trait had all necessary regulatory approvals except from one of the U.S.’s largest corn importing coun- tries. NCGA communicated the fact to its members along with their bio- tech policy. They told growers to review their marketing plans and suggested they use the grain on farm, for domestic livestock consumption and to communicate with their ele- vators. After the grain received its approval, NCGA communicated it to its members and encouraged them to consider the new product in their purchasing selections. 4 AgriMarketing ¦ May 2008 2008 NAMA AGRIBUSINESS LEADER OF THE YEAR REACHING NEW HEIGHTS FOR CORN by Lynn Henderson, Editorial Director With Mount Fuji in the background, NCGA CEO Rick Tolman (l) and Chairman Ken McCauley inspect a starch processing facility operated by Nihon Shokuhin Kako Company near Tokyo. Tolman and McCauley were in Japan to participate in U.S. Grains Council discussions with the Japanese. Table #1 U.S. CORN PRODUCTION AND USAGE (in millions of bushels) Usage Year Production Ethanol FSI* Feed Exports 1997 9,207 481 1,301 5,505 1,503 2007 13,074 3,100 1,360 6,150 2,500 Change +42% +644% +5% +12% +66% *Food, seed and industrial (excluding ethanol) Source: USDA