EDITOR’S NOTE — As National Corn Growers Association President Darrin Ihnen prepared to assume the role of NCGA chairman on Oct. 1, passing the presidency to Bart Schott, he reflected upon the organization’s accomplishments in 2010 and what he foresees as important as it continues. The following is from the NCGA.

In 2010, corn growers faced challenges. The wet year led to a long harvest. Many important issues, such as the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit and trade reform, seem to be stalling out as a partisan Congress turned a blind eye to issues affecting everyday Americans.

Emotionally charged media attacks on corn production inputs, such as atrazine, and corn-based products like corn sugar caught national attention despite the vast array of scientific evidence refuting our critics’ claims.

Facing these challenges has made us stronger and better prepared us to deal in new and more effective ways with the ever-changing political and social landscape in which we all must operate. The single most important achievement NCGA has gained this year is a focus on industry unity.

Industry unity is critical to successfully facing the challenges that face agriculture today. With 98.5 percent of the population not actively involved in farming, most people do not come into contact with farmers regularly. The messages that the average American sees about farming come from the media, the Internet and from word of mouth. To effectively harness these vehicles, we must work together presenting unified, consistent messages that tell our story and situation in a clear manner to a broad audience.

In 2010, there were many examples where NCGA worked collaboratively to bring various industry groups together in order to benefit corn growers as a whole, but two stand out as examples of how major collaborations between many already well-respected groups can yield greater results than going it alone.

We challenged ethanol industry groups to work together by seeking the common ground of fair regulation and legislation that would allow for the continued success of the industry. NCGA worked tirelessly this year to help create a unified message from the ethanol industry. The clarity of messaging and strong show of support came at a crucial moment for corn-based biofuels. With VEETC set to expire, market access issues and the EPA set to announce if higher blends of ethanol will be allowed for consumer use, ethanol as an industry faced both challenges and enormous opportunities. Assuring key legislators that farmers and ethanol producers alike back efforts to promote this sustainable, domestic energy source lends the greatest weight to arguments for favorable rulings and legislation that help corn growers largest growth market continue to thrive.

We served as a focal point in organizing a campaign that involved collaboration amongst state and national organizations. This unprecedented collaboration created a campaign to actively promote image of the U.S. corn farmer both in the Beltway and with the public while internally activating the grassroots efforts that get real results. This project, still in its first year, has already made a tremendous impact. From reaching millions in Washington with messages about the facts on farming and the benefits of ethanol to giving growers the tools to become social media activists and directly contact their legislators, this campaign energized our base while beginning the process of reacquainting America with those who grow her food.

Build on success

As we move forward, it is important to build upon these successes with knowledge of, and respect for, the tools that brought them about. It can be easy to forget that you worked as a team when you are heady from a recent victory, but it is critical in order to sustain that level of performance. The partnerships that have helped our industry over the past year can help it for years to come so long as we remember that we all have similar end goals and are willing to put aside minor disagreements to meet them.

There are still issues to face and they will require that corn growers form new alliances and coalitions to address them with a strong voice. NCGA’s members do not only grow corn, as farmers we grow soybeans, sorghum, alfalfa, wheat and many other crops. We run livestock operations of many kinds. It is in our own best interest to ally with other groups that specialize in these areas. As farmers, our similarities truly do outweigh our differences. By forming a unified front for agriculture as a whole, we can tell our story, fight attacks from those who would undermine the very hands that feed them and effectively promote legislative and regulatory environments that understand the science behind modern ag.

As I take on a new role in the organization, I want to thank the farmers I have met across the country during my term as president. Working toward the good of the industry, I have met and interacted with people who have broadened my outlook, deepened my understanding, and inspired me. This is what I will take with me.

I have made life-long friends, people whose families have become a part of my own — and I of theirs. It has been a formative experience. I honestly believe that in my service I have gotten back everything I gave, and often more.

It has been an honor and privilege to serve as president.