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Agrimarketing : May 2008 Special Supplement
BEST DECISIONS Tolman and his team have made a lot of good decisions along the way. The one he is most proud of is the organization’s decision to build its own headquarter offices in Chesterfield, a western suburb of St. Louis. “We wanted to put down our stakes and build some equity for the association,” Tolman explains. “So, in 2002 NCGA purchased its head- quarters building in Chesterfield, MO. It has been good financially for the association. “I’m also proud of the way of the way the association has empowered its grower leaders to establish poli- cies and how they have responded to the responsibilities,” Tolman says. “NCGA is truly a grassroots organi- zation. I liken the way the NCGA operates to that of an airplane. The grower-members and officers are the passengers and tell staff where to take them. Staff then sets the altitude and pilots the plane.” NCGA has 12 Committees/Action Teams (see page 10). “Each has a three-year plan, a budget, and national staff to work with,” Tolman reports. “It’s great to see the owner- ship the grower-members have taken in this system. As a result, it has been highly effective.” He gives much of the credit to the grower-members’ successes to the “Leadership at its Best” program which was developed and has been sponsored by Syngenta for nearly 20 years. “That program has provided our members with the opportunity to learn the leadership skills needed to operate successfully on a state, country, and world-wide arena,” Tolman says. Four years ago, NCGA conducted a strategic planning process which resulted in the association’s current Long Range Plan. “Many strategic plans are built by organizations,” Tol- man says. “But most wind up on the shelf. Ours, though has been ex- tremely useful—we refer to it daily.” One upshot of the plan was the development of the “15x15x15” vision. “The vision called for the U.S. corn growers to produce 15 billion bushels of corn, of which five billion bushels is used in the production of 15 billion gallons of ethanol by the year 2015,” Tolman explains. “When we developed that vision in 2003 we were only producing a little over one billion gallons of ethanol annually, so it was a very aggressive, some said unrealistic, goal. I’m happy to report that we are well on the way to achieving it today.. “I’ve also been a strong believer in having strong communications activi- ties about NCGA,” Tolman reports. “Our audiences include the growers, NCGA leaders, state corn associa- tions, ag media, agribusiness, policy makers, and other influentials.” He points to the association’s “News of the Day” daily e-mail as its primary communications tool. In addition, the organization has a robust website (www.NCGA.com), regularly issues white papers and reports, hosts meetings for the state association members, and has an extensive Public Relations effort which last year distributed more than 50 news releases. “One vitally important activity which we are in the midst of,” Tol- man says, “is having our grower- leaders meet with the editorial direc- tors of nationally influential newspapers. Several have been criti- cal of the Farm Bill, so we have been travelling to their offices for a series of educational meetings with them. So far, we’ve met with the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washing- ton Post and the Los Angeles Times.” Tolman feels it is important to reach out to all who think they have a stake in, or can influence the future of, the corn industry and stay in con- tact with them. “We’re much better off talking with all involved,” Tol- man says. “Otherwise, we may get upset with each other and not really know where the other one stands and why.” Sometimes, it takes unlikely part- ners to accomplish a project. For example, while working on the “Water Resources Development Act” which mandates the much needed updating of the Mississippi River lock and dam system, NCGA part- nered with several labor groups. “The bulk of the corn exports, and many of our supplies, such as fertilizer, is moved via barge on the river which is the most cost effective mode of transportation,” Tolman explains. “But as anybody who has done business in Washington, D.C. knows, the broader the coalition, the stronger your voice. So we reached out to the labor groups who stood to May 2008 ¦ AgriMarketing 5 (more on page 6) 2008 NAMA AGRIBUSINESS LEADER OF THE YEAR RICK TOLMAN’S CAREER PATH Born in southern Idaho, raised near Fresno, CA, and attended Fresno State Univ . Spent one year in the Philippians on mis- sion work for his church. Moved to Fiji with his parents. Returned to the U.S. and graduated from Brigham Young University with B.S. in Ag Economics with an Accounting minor. Received M.S. from Purdue University in Ag Economics with a Market- ing option. 1975: Joins Gehl Co., West Bend, WI, in its Market Research Department. Also works as Product Mgr for its forage/hay handling line. 1980: Joins International Harvester , Chicago, IL, in its Advanced Harvesting Systems group. 1982: Joins U.S. Grains Council, Washington, D.C. Promoted to Exec Dir. of International Oper- ations where he oversees the Council’s 14 overseas offices. Visits 60 countries encouraging their import of U.S.-originated grains, including corn, grain sorghum, and other crops. 2000: Joins NCGA, Chesterfield, MO, as CEO. He is the third in the organization’s 50 year history.