By Sarah Gonzalez, Director, Communications and Digital Media; with contributions by Bobby Frederick, Vice President, Legislative Affairs and Public Policy; and Max Fisher, Vice President, Economics and Government Relations
More than 400 people gathered in Colorado Springs, Colo., for the NGFA’s 125th annual convention on June 2-4 where NGFA members met with industry leaders and joined together in-person for the first time since March 2020!
All registered convention attendees can access full recordings of the June 3-4 General Sessions, the June 2 Transportation and Technology Open Forum and any open committee meetings via the virtual event platform until June 21. (Log in with personal credentials at ngfa125.us.chime.live).
During her NGFA Chairman’s Address on June 3, JoAnn Brouillette, president and managing partner of Demeter Lp, in Fowler, Ind., outlined Association priorities for the year ahead, including:
- Encouraging the Biden administration and Congress to renew the president’s trade promotion authority, which is scheduled to expire July 1, to enable the United States to engage in additional negotiations to expand U.S. agricultural trade.
- Demonstrating the positive contribution of targeted, working lands conservation practices on sequestering carbon, and continuing to oppose efforts to idle productive farmland at the expense of crop production.
- Securing $7 billion to finance congressionally authorized inland waterway navigation projects, including long-delayed lock-and-dam projects on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Waterway system.
- Working with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to implement more rail-to-rail competition.
- Expanding truck capacity for agriculture, including expanding and clarifying the agricultural exemption under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s hours-of-service rules.
- Communicating with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as the Biden administration develops a COVID-19 emergency workplace safety standard.
- Working with the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture to prevent the introduction of foreign animal diseases like African Swine Fever (ASF) into the United States and engaging with FDA on several ongoing rulemakings implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act.
Brouillette also announced the launch of NGFA’s 125th anniversary celebration with a series of initiatives to guide member engagement throughout 2021 and the release of a new NGFA tagline – “Transforming America’s Harvest.” NGFA’s 125th anniversary themes include:
- Transforming the face of our future: Fostering an inclusive environment that attracts people of diverse backgrounds and cultures to the grain, feed and processing industry is crucial to the health and vitality of the industry and the NGFA. Earlier this year, the National Grain and Feed Foundation launched a scholarship in partnership with the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) national society.
- Transforming the health of our lands: Targeting the most environmentally sensitive portions of farmland with proven conservation practices will serve to increase the health of America’s soil, air and water as well as boost local, rural economies that depend on agricultural production. The Foundation has commissioned a study to analyze the effects of targeted conservation practices on environmental and economic health.
- Transforming workplace safety culture: Creating a culture of safety in every facility and farm where grain is handled will contribute to a healthier and happier agricultural community and potentially save lives that are tragically lost in grain-related incidents every year. To complement an already robust suite of safety training materials available at ngfa.org/safety, NGFA will publish a new “Firefighting Manual: A Guide for Operators of Grain Handling Facilities and Fire Department Officials,” later this year.
- Transforming global markets to be more open: NGFA will continue its trade policy efforts designed to create a more open global market environment in which the U.S. export industry can operate to further enhance global food security.
Keynote and Headline Speakers
During her June 3 address at NGFA’s 125th annual convention, Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., announced that she had assembled a bipartisan group of lawmakers to request funding to advance construction of a new 1,200-foot lock and dam on the Upper Mississippi River.
Lamenting the “fix as fail” mentality toward maintaining U.S. locks and dams, Rep. Bustos submitted a request for $22.5 million in Community Project Funding (CPF) for Lock and Dam 25 between Batchtown, Ill., and Winfield, Mo. The CPF process is designed to enhance the role of legislators in securing funding for infrastructure projects to their regions instead of leaving those decisions primarily to the executive branch.
Lock and Dam 25 opened in 1939 when the standard barge tow was 600 feet and, like many of the locks on the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway, it has surpassed its useful design life. The project is just one of the seven additional 1,200-foot locks under the Navigation Ecosystem and Sustainability Program (NESP) which NGFA strongly supports.
During the Q&A session with NGFA President and CEO Mike Seyfert, Bustos urged both a “whole of government” and individual business preparedness approach to address the recent cyber and ransomware attacks. That same day, the Biden administration released a memo to corporate executives and business leaders on steps to protect companies from ransomware. Read more about cybersecurity updates on the NGFA website here.
During his June 4 address, Cargill CEO David MacLennan discussed a major area investment for his company — regenerative agriculture. Cargill supports voluntary adoption of regenerative agriculture across 10 million acres of North American farmland by 2030, he noted.
“I think the greatest challenge facing the ag industry today is sustainably feeding a world that is growing rapidly,” MacLennan said. “The changes we make at the roots of our supply chain will deliver the greatest impact – by reducing emissions, improving water quality, sequestering carbon, and building up the resilience of our soils for the next generation. Companies can set as many climate goals as we want. But without the support and leadership of farmers, none of it will happen. They’ve got to lead the way and we’re here to partner with them on this important, ongoing effort.”
The convention also featured CoBank President and CEO Tom Halverson and BNSF Railway President and CEO Katie Farmer on June 4 and a pre-recorded session with Perdue Farms Chairman Jim Perdue on June 3.
During the Transportation and Technology Open Forum on June 2, Martin Oberman, chairman of the Surface Transportation Board (STB), outlined current priorities of the STB, saying that the “real focus of our job is maintaining a strong national rail network. Everything we do – mergers decision, rulemaking, case decisions – in my view should be guided by the principal of what makes the strongest national network.”
Oberman said the Final Offer Rate Review proceeding and the arbitration proceeding are at the top of the Board’s consciousness and priority list. He said the two proceedings are inherently interrelated and will be considered together and Oberman hopes to see action in the near future.
In addition, he said the competitive switching proceeding is not dead and he is hopeful there will be action in this area as well. He shared that the week before NGFA’s convention, the Board issued a new request to the Class I rail carriers to continue to provide data on their demurrage billings. Read an outline of Oberman’s comments here.
The open forum also featured insightful presentations from Charley Moore, senior vice president agriculture sales at Trinity Rail; Jeff Schreiner, CEO of Roger LLC; and Tracy Zea, president and CEO of Waterways Council Inc.
Distinguished Service Awards
Chairman Brouillette presented the following members with NGFA Distinguished Service Awards during a ceremony on June 3:
In recognition of career achievement and service to NGFA and the industry, NGFA presented the award to Diana Klemme, vice president for the Grain Service Corporation. She served several terms on the NGFA’s Board of Directors and the Executive Committee, as well as on the Foundation Board of Trustees. She made important contributions during her two separate stints as chair of the Commodity Exchange Committee, which evolved into NGFA’s current Risk Management Committee. She played a critically important role working together with the Chicago Board of Trade to create today’s river delivery system for futures markets. Later, she was a leader in guiding the industry through some difficult times when hybrid cash contracts were in their infancy and facing criticism. She continues as a member of the Risk Management Committee today and serves as a strong advocate for futures market participants and their customers.
NGFA presented the award to Dave Hoogmoed in recognition of outstanding leadership, dedication and service to the Association and in honor of his retirement after serving as president of Purina Animal Nutrition, a division of Land O’Lakes. His early involvement with NGFA came at a time when the Association was evaluating and expanding its feed-related services. The insights that he provided then and subsequently throughout his extensive involvement with the Association were instrumental in shaping NGFA’s efforts for the feed sector. He served as NGFA Chairman from 2012-2014 and on NGFA’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee. Most recently, he chaired the Selection Committee for NGFA’s new president and CEO.
Randy Gordon received an honorary lifetime NGFA membership in addition to his Distinguished Service Award. NGFA also created the “Randall C. Gordon Award for Excellence in Industry Service,” which will be presented annually to the NGFA committee member whose exceptional service has contributed greatly to the goals of the grain, feed and processing industry during the year. NGFA’s first Randall C. Gordon Award will be presented at the 126th annual convention in Charleston, S.C. in 2022.
“…[T]his is YOUR organization whose future accomplishments will be determined largely by the investment of time and talent by its volunteer industry leaders,” Gordon said during the awards ceremony. “I fervently believe the NGFA can do and accomplish most anything that its members believe is in the industry’s collective best interest so long as its members provide the vision, direction, commitment and RESOURCES to make it happen.”
Read Gordon’s full remarks here, or in the separate article within this NGFA Newsletter.
Each year, NGFA conducts a membership recruiting competition and recognizes the leading recruiters at convention. Based on recruiting points, this year’s winners include:
- Third place: David Nutt with J.W. Nutt Co.
- Second place: Annette Cook with Simmons Grain
- First place: Greg Beck of CGB Enterprises
The solid bronze statue of Ceres, Goddess of the Harvest – awarded to the NGFA-member company with the most total membership points – was presented to CGB Enterprises. The statue will spend a year in CGB’s Covington, La., office.
More photos will be added to the convention photo album over the next week.