Last week, staff from the National Corn Growers Association and 20 state corn associations met in St. Louis to delve into hot topics that will affect farmers in the coming years.

Exploring issues including the future of ethanol, water quality regulations and potential livestock legislation, participants collaborated on ways to maximize the effectiveness of their efforts.

State staff joined the already ongoing national staff meeting on Tuesday afternoon for the three-day conference. Featuring presentations from industry experts such as Center for Food Integrity CEO Charlie Arnot and in-depth association program coverage, the meeting also provided opportunities to share experiences and examine issues from fresh perspectives.

Arnot provided insight into how to best communicate with consumers. With new programs oriented toward a consumer audience, such as CommonGround and the NASCAR American Ethanol partnership, this speech looked at how to best create the trust between consumers and farmers that will help the industry educate broad public audiences about the reality of modern agriculture.

Specifically, Arnot recommended that growers look at the values they share with consumers instead of bombarding an unwilling audience with dry facts.

Panels of state staff spoke with the group on the issues which their states dealt with intensively over the past year. Here, topics included defending state livestock industries from activist attacks, promoting blender pumps and sports marketing.

National staff also took advantage of this opportunity to update state staff on major programs and upcoming issues. Topics covered included NASCAR, the 2012 farm bill and the future of the ethanol industry. The structure of the meeting allowed state staff to discuss the direction of the campaigns and provide direct feedback.

This annual meeting also included breakout sessions for executives, communicators, grower services staff and executive administrators. Through these sessions, each particular group was able to discuss the particular issues that will impact their area of expertise the most directly over the coming few years and to look at ways to improve their skill sets.