Alabama Soybean & Corn Association

As a farmer, you work from dawn to dusk. You plan.  You  budget. You worry. You sweat. You hope. You pray. And yet, one stroke of a pen in Washington, DC can do as much to make or break your profitability as the thousands of hours you devote to your crop each season.

If you believe...


the future of the soybean and corn industry is critically important to the success of US farmers...


Congress has a lot to say about whether or not you make money...


grain farmers need to have strong representation on Capitol Hill...

News from NCGA

New Stewardship Network Celebrates Growing Momentum on Conservation in Agriculture (Thu, 27 Feb 2020)
Initiative from National Corn Growers Association and Environmental Defense Fund will help farmers collaborate to remain productive and profitable The National Corn Growers Association and Environmental Defense Fund today launched the Success in Stewardship Network at Commodity Classic to celebrate and accelerate the use of agricultural conservation practices on U.S. corn farms. The network will showcase success stories from the many farmers and state-level programs putting stewardship into practice, with the goal of building an ever-growing network of corn farmers who are also conservation leaders. Today, NCGA and EDF recognized the Minnesota Corn Innovation Grant Program and the Illinois Corn Precision Conservation Management Program for their farmer-supported efforts to deliver clean water, healthy soils and farm profitability. “The Success in Stewardship Network will break down the notion that conservation is only for an elite group of farmers,” said Callie Eideberg, director of agricultural policy and special projects at EDF. “Practices that protect the land and water and increase climate resilience are more prevalent than many thinks, and this network will bring farmers and agricultural organizations together to continue making conservation commonplace.” “Farming practices are rapidly evolving with sustainability in mind. We have reached a tipping point where we have an opportunity to begin recognizing corn farmers more broadly for their efforts to stay productive and profitable, manage the challenges of climate change, all while accelerating sustainable farming practices,” said Kevin Ross, NCGA president. “A regular drumbeat about the value and importance of stewardship and local examples can drive this movement.” The network will celebrate and connect the farmers and programs that are already driving change with proven conservation practices. This is not an annual award program, but rather an ongoing recognition initiative for all farmers who meet the initiative’s criteria. “2019 was an undeniably difficult year for U.S. agriculture, but the first programs to be recognized by the Success in Stewardship Network exemplify how stewardship can create bright spots even in the midst of difficult times for U.S. farmers,” said Eideberg. Minnesota Corn Innovation Grant Program The Minnesota Corn Innovation Grant Program from the Minnesota Corn Growers Association allows farmers to test their ideas and examine how those ideas might be replicated on other farms. To date, the program has invested nearly $600,000 in farmer-led research projects about nutrient management and water quality improvements. “This program is grower led and grower funded, with the mission of identifying novel solutions that promote environmental responsibility while being practical,” said Bryan Biegler, a board member with the Minnesota Corn Growers Association. “In the first four years of the program, projects have included novel approaches to cover crop systems, state-of-the-art drip irrigation for spoon-feeding nitrogen and evaluating variable-rate nitrogen programs.” Illinois Corn Precision Conservation Management Program The Precision Conservation Management (PCM) program from the Illinois Corn Growers Association is a farmer-led effort to address natural resources concerns across five watersheds in Illinois and Kentucky on a field-by-field basis and in a financially viable way. “PCM is farm-centric, data-driven and farm-specific, utilizing aggregated and anonymized farmer data to serve farmer needs in a way that demonstrates how conservation practices affect both society and farm income,” said Travis Deppe, director of Precision Conservation Management. “This program is promoting real change for all farmers in Illinois and Kentucky thanks to the hard work of our Precision Conservation Specialists and the willingness of our farmers to try new practices and measure their results. To date, 325 farmers and 300,000 acres have been enrolled in the water quality program.” How to get involved We encourage any stewards who participate in a recognized program or adopt conservation measures on their own to become part of the network. Those who are selected will gain networking and learning opportunities, as well as free membership in state corn grower associations and NCGA. For more information about the network’s benefits and selection criteria, please contact: stewardshipnetwork@ncga.com. For the latest on NCGA and EDF’s partnership, listen to this podcast: https://ncga.com/stay-informed/media/podcast.

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Ep. 3: Climate-Proofing Agriculture and Adding Value to the Industry, with EDF (Wed, 26 Feb 2020)
Listen to Wherever Jon May Roam on iTunes, GooglePlay, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. Farmers are the original environmentalists. For generations, they’ve tended the land, kept track of its health and put their hearts, backs and livelihoods into keeping it productive. But in an era of climate change and extreme weather events, it’s going to take new allies and new tactics to help farmers in that mission, and the National Corn Growers Association has found an important partner in an unexpected place. In this episode, NCGA CEO Jon Doggett and Environmental Defense Fund Senior VP of Ecosystems David Festa discuss the common ground they’ve discovered in helping growers weather storms, grow their profits and reduce their impact on the environment. They’re joined as well by NCGA VP of Production and Sustainability Nathan Fields. Learn more about EDF’s conservation efforts to bolster farm finances. Direct share TRANSCRIPT David Festa: I've never met a farmer that wakes up in the morning and says, "What can I do to really screw up the planet today? Farmers are some of the best stewards of the land that we have. Jon Doggett: The folks at EDF, they understand what we do and they actually give it value and we talk a lot in agriculture about the need to educate the environmental community. We're not going to educate the environmental community unless we have a relationship with them. Both of us listen while the other one talks. Dusty Weis: Hello and welcome to Wherever Jon May Roam, the National Corn Growers Association podcast. This is where leaders, growers, and stakeholders in the corn industry can turn for big picture conversations about the state of the industry and its future. I'm Dusty Weis, and I'll be introducing your host, association CEO Jon Doggett. You can join Jon every month as he travels the country on a mission to advocate for America's corn farmers. From the fields of the corn belt to the DC beltway, we'll make sure that the growers who feed America have a say in the issues that are important to them with key leaders who are shaping the future of agriculture. Dusty Weis: If haven't yet, make sure that you're subscribed to this podcast with your favorite app. That way you can take us with you in your truck, your combine, or on your next business trip and never miss an update from Jon. Also make sure to follow NCGA on Twitter @NationalCorn and sign up for the National Corn Growers Association newsletter in your email at NCGA.com. Dusty Weis: So you've heard it said, though, maybe not often enough, that farmers are the original environmentalists. For generations, they've tended the land, kept track of its health and put their hearts, backs and livelihoods into keeping it productive. But in an era of climate change and extreme weather events, it's going to take new allies and tactics to help farmers in that mission. And in this episode, National Corn Growers Association CEO Jon Doggett will tell you how an unexpected partner is helping to reshape the landscape. Dusty Weis: Jon farmers talking about the weather is a tale as old as agriculture itself. Farmers talking about the climate? Well, that's a considerably more recent development, but it sets us up for a very interesting conversation today between you and whom exactly. Jon Doggett: Well, Dusty, our guest today is someone whose expertise is more and more valuable to those of us who depend on the weather to make a living and David Festa is the senior vice president of ecosystems at the Environmental Defense Fund. He's a renowned expert on ecosystem resilience and I'm going to ask him a question about what that means. And he has a long track record of bringing diverse stakeholders together to meet growing needs for food, water, and shelter in ways that improve the environment. And I want to make this next point really strong, and benefit the economy, because without that, the rest of it doesn't happen. So David, thank you so much for joining us. David Festa: Hey, I'm excited to be here. Thanks for asking. Jon Doggett: And we're also joined by Nathan Fields. Nathan is our Vice President of Sustainability and Production. He's an avid podcast listener himself, and not including you, Dusty or me, Nathan might be our third listener. So we're glad to have him participate in today's conversation. Not that I really gave him much of an option. Nathan Fields: Thanks a lot Jon. No, happy to address this issue. Dusty Weis: So that much said, they say the days are long and the years are short. That's not so true about 2019. Jon, most of us in ag couldn't throw last year's calendar away soon enough. So what exactly was it that made last year such a grind for farmers? Jon Doggett: There were a lot of things that happened, but for some farmers in this country, 2019 isn't over yet. I was in Fargo, North Dakota earlier this week and when you fly over that part of the country, there's still a lot of corn that hasn't been harvested. So not everybody has turned that calendar yet. We hope that they get that done soon, but it's going to be a tough time out there. Jon Doggett: But last year we had the weather, we had the market disruptions with the trade policy. It just seemed like anything that could be difficult was difficult. And the weather just never, never cooperated. It just rained and rained and rained in so many parts of the country. I've heard from a bunch of farmers that their soil is so wet now, if they get any rain in the Springtime, we're going to have another problem. Dusty Weis: Now lest people write this off as just your sort of typical farmers who don't like the weather. Last year was a different kind of weather system altogether. It was extreme. It was unprecedented and unheard of. What made it so much different from other bad years for farmers? Jon Doggett: Well, I think just that it was so widespread. The moisture just kept coming. Just about the time people were starting to get into the field to get ready to plant, it started to rain. And it never stopped raining for so many folks. We have folks that took the Prevent Plant Provision in their crop insurance for the first time in their life. I heard of growers who had never not been able to get their whole crop in, didn't get any of their crop yields. So it just was a very difficult year. And then parts of the country, it was so bitterly cold out this time last year, affected a lot of our livestock customers. So it was a very, very different year than we've seen in the past. Nathan Fields: Yeah. Jon, I'll go ahead and jump in and talk about some crazy phenomenon that did happen in 2019. I mean we started off in March with a bomb cyclone. I mean, it's the equivalent of our hurricane in the upper latitudes with a huge snow storm that came through and kicked off this terrible weather cycle. I was giving a talk this summer and I pulled up the drought monitor that Nebraska publishes every couple of weeks and it was the lowest amount of drought in the continental United States ever recorded by that monitor, which was great that not have drought but unfortunately, on the other side, everything was underwater. Jon Doggett: We had folks, I remember one of our board members called me, said he was going to go out and inspect his crop. He was going to do it from his jet ski. Dusty Weis: Meanwhile at the environmental defense fund, what was your perspective on the year David Festa, EDF, Senior VP of Ecosystems. David Festa: One of the things that we see as perhaps a silver lining, or at least a bright spot in 2019, is that the trend that we've seen over the past decade of steadily increasing use of cover crops and conservation tillage continued to grow in 2019. And the reason for that is that more and more farmers are seeing how this is good for their bottom line and how this is helping reduce the volatility of their yields over time. So it's one of those cases where we really get a win-win from the conservation side of things as well as the farm economy side of things. Jon Doggett: I think that's so interesting because we had a board retreat a couple of weeks ago. And I asked the board if you had had the same exact conditions as we had this last crop year, but you had at 10, 15 years ago, what would have happened? And one of them said, "I would not even want to think about that." Several said, "I would have lost another third of my crop." Some of them just said, "It would've been a complete total disaster." So the practices have changed and they paid off, because as bad is the weather was this year, we still had a really big crop. David Festa: I love little anecdotes. And one of those is a farmer we work with from South Dakota and an NCGA member. And of course South Dakota was particularly hard hit by floods. He was able to plant over 90% of his fields despite the heavy spring rains. And he attributes that to conservation tillage and the high level of crop residue left in his fields. And from what he tells us, that compares to his neighbors, few of which were able to plant more than 60% of their fields because the ground was too wet. So you really can see the impact of these conservation practices. David Festa: And it's kind of funny to me to keep calling them conservation practices as if that's the only thing they do. And in fact they do so much more. Recent analysis of Iowa's farmers said that if just half of the conventionally tilled acres were converted to some form of conservation tillage, it would save Iowa farmers up to 265 million annually in fuel and equipment costs. And this is not just an isolated finding. We're seeing this more and more. This is really where conservation and economics go hand in hand. Dusty Weis: David Festa from EDF, you guys watch this from a very macro level. And so hearing these stories of how farmers and planters are affected on the micro is probably just part of collating data for you guys. But when you look into the future, what did these sorts of weather events that we saw in 2019 tell you about the future of farming? David Festa: I think what it shows is that these conservation practices are going to be an increasingly valuable tool for farmers who are facing great volatility due to a variety of factors, a less stable climate being one of them. We worked with a half dozen of our farmers who advise us closely on their corn and soy practices and we saw that they consistently realized returns on their investment in those conservation practices. Practices like cover crops and conservation tillages, tillage practices, nutrient management, that's making their farms more resilient to the things that are most difficult to control, which is the climate. If anybody's interested in digging into the details of that report, it is on our website, edf.org/farm-finance. Jon Doggett: So Nathan, if our climate is indeed changing, what does that mean for the average corn farmer? Nathan Fields: Well, I think for them it means that they're going to have to continue to experiment and actually take more risk on the land and implementing practices, trying new practices, to mitigate against that change in weather from a year-to-year basis. When times get tough, our growers have really shown a tremendous amount of resilience at being able to create a crop. They did so in 2012 when we had that huge drought. Then again in '19 when we were completely wet, we still produce crops those years. And every new practice, every neighbor that gets, as David said, 90% of their farm field and they're going to pay attention. They're going to see that and they're going to adopt those practices at a much higher rate. David Festa: Hey Nathan, you said farmers are going to have to take more risk. From our point of view, one of the things that we're trying to do is actually share that risk around more so that we can align some of the farm economics with outcomes that are actually helping farmers in the long run. So one of those, for example, is the work that is being done with the Iowa Watershed approach managed by the Iowa Flood Center, which is helping direct payments to farmers when they manage their lands in ways that help hold water and therefore reduce flooding incidences downstream. This was started by a Housing and Urban Development Grant in 2010 and it's grown into $97 million statewide effort. That's just one of the ways that we can actually share the risks around of the experimentation and the different approaches that farmers are going to be using and adopting to reduce the risk to themselves and also the risk to their neighbors of this strange weather. Dusty Weis: David, it seems like those are some really solid policy ideas that EDF has floated, but a question now for Nathan Fields, NCGA's Vice President of Production and Sustainability, what are the steps that farmers should take on their own land to help them adapt to more extreme weather events? Nathan Fields: Well, you're already seeing this trend happening. The practices that they're going to have to take up is paying attention really to the health of the soil and the health of the farmland, health of the ground that they farm in a year in and year out basis. They've always cared about it, but now they're really looking at new technologies, new ways of testing and collecting data and processing that data into something functional for them to use. So keeping the soil alive with cover crops, making sure that you get the right nutrients down. I mean it's always been important and it's going to continue to get more and more important. Jon Doggett: One of the things I think, when we look at all of these different things to do on the ground, I think it's important to remember, and we certainly are emphasizing that with our growers, but also with our partners in other parts of this discussion. And that is what works in North Dakota may not work in Southern Missouri and may not work in Ohio. And I think that's the thing is what we're trying to do is get folks to give it a try. Let's see what we can do. Our soil health partnership has been certainly part of that, but nothing beats having somebody who farms alongside you go ahead and try something and have it work really well. Because lots of folks don't want to be number one. They may not want to be number two, but they'll certainly get lined to be number three or four. Jon Doggett: That's what's kind of cool, is that we're getting enough that this activity going now in a different way than we've had before. And what we're getting from that is a lot of folks are starting to pay attention and it's really cool because all of the conservation that has occurred on farm ground, going back thousands of years, it's always been one farmer watching what works for the other farmer and the adaptability of the American farmer is unparalleled. And I think that's what's really exciting about this discussion. Dusty Weis: Even in just the first 10 minutes of our conversation here between the National Corn Growers Association and the Environmental Defense Fund, we're finding all of this common ground here between the two of you and I think that it's just a fascinating partnership in the making. Some might look back at the history and say, "Well the NCGA and EDF are kind of a bit of an odd couple. What brought your two organizations together, Jon? Jon Doggett: Well, we have a memorandum of understanding with EDF. We've had it for a couple of years, but I think it started with just some outreach from EDF. Somebody who we've worked with, Susie Friedman who works for EDF, and it's amazing because she comes to almost all of our meetings and she is part of the family now. And so it took some time for our folks to kind of come around to, "Hey, this might be a good partnership." I have heard criticism about it from some folks, but once I get a chance to have this conversation, a lot of that criticism goes away. Jon Doggett: Now, I remember when we discussed with the board should we sign this Memorandum of Understanding. And there were three things that came up. One, was where will EDF light on GMOs? Two, where will EDF light on ethanol. And the third one was a lot more personal. We had a couple of growers say, "How can I take this back to the coffee shop?" And I think that one of those who was quite adamant that that was going to be a problem said to me not so long ago, "This thing has really worked quite well. I'm really glad that we were doing this. And that's what we wanted to hear. And as David and I have talked, we both have coffee shops. David Festa: Yeah, absolutely. And you talk about odd couple, I don't know who the first person was that ever thought it might be a good idea to put peanut butter with chocolate. Reeses Cups are really delicious. And I think it's a little bit like that. I've never met a farmer that wakes up in the morning and says, "What can I do to really screw up the planet today?" Farmers are some of the best stewards of the land that we have and understand the land in a way that few of us ever really could without dedicating our lives to it like farmers have. So to us, it really made sense to say, "Well, why don't we try this strange thing of talking with them?" David Festa: And Jon, you're absolutely right. When we first started this over a decade ago, there were members of my community and even the NCJ leadership that was a little suspicious. And look, I could see why. There just wasn't a lot of reason back then for an agricultural group to trust somebody from an environmental group. But over time we built that trust and we, I think quite smartly, started with just really small things. But they grew into big ones like eventually joined together in the Soil Health Partnership. It's a big step we took together. And ultimately we both really understand that we have a stake in this safe and affordable food system. And this partnership is completely dedicated to making that resilient food and ag system a reality. Jon Doggett: What I think is really neat about this partnership. David said farmers want to do the right thing by the land. And we've known that for a long time. Some of the environmental community have not. And that's why it's so refreshing to work with EDF because they very much understand that the best conservation that can occur is going to occur on those working lands. And that has just been a breath of fresh air. And the other thing that our folks are all of a sudden starting to understand is, "Hey, you know what? These folks want us to be profitable as well." And that I think was one of the biggest things that turned a lot of our community around was, "Hey, they're not coming here to tell us how to farm. They're here to help us be profitable and have some good things on the ground as well." David Festa: Yeah. And if I could put an exclamation point on that, you used the phrase working lands, which we use a lot to mean farms, ranches and timberlands. The stat that always blows away my conservation friends when I say it, is that working lands are roughly two-thirds of the surface area of the lower 48. And if you care about conservation outcomes, how the heck are you going to get anywhere if you ignore two-thirds of the land in the lower 48? And by the way, that statistic is not that far off if you take it on a global basis. David Festa: If you come with that perspective, you realize it's not that we want farmers to be profitable, we need them to be profitable. They have to be able to make a living working the land. And if they walk away from the land, that is not good for the land. It's not that the land goes back to some pristine state, it gets overtaken by all kinds of noxious weeds, et cetera. So we need, not want, we need farmers to be profitable in working those lands. Dusty Weis: Just hearing the nature of this conversation between your two organizations and the common ground that you've already established. We've kind of discussed a little bit how the perceptions that the two groups have for one another have shifted over time. But in what other ways has that relationship sort of evolved as well, Jon? Jon Doggett: Well the neat thing about it is that there are differences among ag organizations and there are certainly differences among environmental groups. And I heard a comment from one of our board members not so long ago who said something about the environmentalist, but not EDF because- David Festa: Oh, you just made my day. Thanks. Jon Doggett: He could see there is a difference and that's, that's what's really kind of cool. And when our folks can say, "You know what, there are people in the environmental community we can work with and that we can trust ..." doesn't mean we're going to work with and trust all of them. But we certainly have found a good partnership here. David Festa: Yeah. And I mean one of the things I always say to folks who come onto our team or new to our team is that agriculture is based on relationships, not on transactions. And you've got to have the will and the frame of mind to just sit down and you start small. You start with a conversation over a cup of coffee. And from that you can really build a trust and build the understanding. And you asked how is the relationship changed? It's changed because it's deeper and it's allowed us to have different kinds of conversations with each other. David Festa: Jon, earlier you mentioned the issue with GMOs. And frankly, we sort of sat on the sidelines on that. It's not an issue that we'd really gotten involved in. And you guys pushed us and said, "You can't be quiet on that. You have to say something." And we went back and put together a statement on it. It's on our website. That wouldn't have happened at the start of the relationship for us to really be pushed by you guys and take that on board. David Festa: And another thing, we certainly weren't talking ... we didn't use the climate word at all a decade ago. And here we are, our logos are going to be together on a banner at the commodity classic talking about how we're working together to build climate resilience on the front lines. So it's really pretty impressive how far this relationship has come. I got to thank you in particular, Jon, for really being a guiding light and a great partner for us. Jon Doggett: Well thanks and you folks have extended some great invitations to us as well. And I thoroughly enjoyed going to the dinner with your Board of Directors. I think sitting down next to one of your board members who is a big contributor. And I asked, "What is your interest in the environmental movement?" And he was very interested in oceans and then he asked me, "Well, have farmers started to use conservation tillage." And I said, "No." And he looked at me and I said, "They already are." And that was a really great conversation- David Festa: That's great. Jon Doggett: That we would not have otherwise had. And at the end of the evening I walked away a little smarter. Thank goodness. And I hope he did as well. Dusty Weis: Jon, as you've gotten to know the folks at EDF more, is there anything about them that has surprised you? Jon Doggett: Their commitment to improving the environment is laudable. But the way they go about it is, "Hey, let's try this. But you know what? It has to be profitable for you if we're going to make this work." And it has just been that unrelenting commitment to say to folks, "If we're going to do this, whatever practice it is, it has to work on the ground and it has to help the farmer be more profitable." And I think that has been the thing that, well I've heard that and they certainly have talked the talk, but they also are really good at walking the walk. Dusty Weis: What about you, David? Same question. David Festa: Yeah. Well I was going to say is one of the things that I really appreciate is just how nimble NCGA can be. Coming from our side, we expect associations to be these clunky things. But NCGA has been really nimble in embracing ideas. Just a really quick example is the virtual reality experience we did together called the Monarch effect, which showcases what our partnership is doing on the ground. Well that came together in a matter of weeks. It's sort of a land speed record even for us over here. That was a really fun project. Dusty Weis: What about you Nathan Fields as NCGA's, Vice President of Production and Sustainability, you've had a hand in shaping the relationship between these two groups. How would you say it's changed over time? Nathan Fields: Well, I would actually say it's amazing how NCGA and the growers involved with NCGA have changed over time. I met a grower about 10, 15 years ago who was very wary of the environmental community, was very wary of the EPA, didn't want anybody on his land and he was going to take care of it the way he was going to take care of it. And nowadays he goes around and he introduces himself as not only a farmer, but an environmentalist, and one of the original environmentalists. And I think this relationship and breaking down these barriers, not only as it evolved the relationship, but it's evolved the organization. Jon Doggett: There is part of this that has been so much fun. And that is what I've heard from farmers is, "Well the folks at EDF, they understand what we do and they actually give it value." And so many times I think farmers feel beleaguered and they feel like nobody acknowledges the good things they do on the ground. And here comes this outfit and they say, "We'll help you do a better job, but you're doing a good job now." That is so amazing to so many people in the countryside. And I think it's remarkable in that it has opened the door for us to have a conversation together. David Festa: And I would go even further. Sort of the aspiration I have is not to say we're going to help you do a better job. It's really more that how can we remove barriers that allow you to do what you know is going to be good for your bottom line and good for your soils, good for the rivers that run past and through your farms. How can we help remove those barriers? You're the guys that actually know what to do and how to do it. Dusty Weis: David, I think that's a great point to pivot back to sort of how we originally started this conversation and talking about the changing climate and the weather events that are going to continue to impact farmers as time goes on here. What barriers need to be removed to help corn farmers prepare for a world where mother nature calls the shots? David Festa: Yeah. This is really important. And one of the things that we've been focusing on recently is how the financial mechanisms that are so important to farmers are structured so that they can reward practices that farmers are undertaking, where the variability of their yield is reduced. And that means that profitability is more stable and higher. That should be reflected in things like loan products, how crop insurance is written. David Festa: One of our meetings with a couple of farmers a few years ago, they brought this up and said, "As I'm building my soil's health, I get no economic benefit for that. In fact in the short run, I have to learn new practices and I have to invest in that. Why isn't that reflected in the loan rate I get because I have a better record over time with my crops?" David Festa: And we began to think, "Yeah, why not?" Why can't we as environmental defense fund go to the folks writing these loan products, go to the Congress and say, "We're vouching for the environmental benefit of this. Your farmers are vouching for the yield stability part of this. Let's start incorporating this into how we actually run the farm finance system." Jon Doggett: So David, what advice would you give to a farmer who's looking at farming differently than they do right now? David Festa: To be honest, I feel uncomfortable answering questions like that because I'm not a farmer. I'm not in a position to give farmers advice on how they produce corn. What I can do is listen to farmers and help brainstorm ways to bring their good ideas and their good practices to scale. I mentioned a little earlier the conversation that we had a couple of years ago with farmers where they said, "Hey, the Farm Finance System can actually be a little bit of a drag on innovation." That's what led us then to begin to work on that farm finance system. David Festa: And again, I mentioned a report that we've done earlier on how conservation practices actually improve yield and bottom line. And that's the kind of thing that we want to get into in a wide circulation. It's also what led us to do a little report with the National Association of State Directors of Agriculture, which really called for aligning the economic incentives with practices that are good for conservation and help stabilize and even increase yields. So those are the kinds of things that I feel like we can do it at EDF. Dusty Weis: You're right David. It's really reaching out to growers and connecting them together. And it actually is coming to fruition with a new program that EDF and NCGA are beginning to launch at commodity classic this year, where we're highlighting different programs and growers that are involved in conservation practices being implemented and supported at scale. We really see this as a great evolution of programs that we have together with EDF. And it actually brings in some other partners in the form of the Walton family foundation. So this relationship and normalizing what conservation agriculture looks like is the goal. And seeing these things happen at scale and promoting them at scale is great. David Festa: I couldn't agree more. I mean the idea that that conservation is something off on the side or something imposed top-down is just a losing proposition. It really ... our goal is to help create this as an integral part of how farmers go about their business, supported by everything from coffee shop conservations to the loan rate that they get. Dusty Weis: I think it's really exciting to hear about ideas like that. And Jon, curious to know where else do you see this partnership going next? Jon Doggett: Well, we continue to have these one-on-one conversations with one another that's expanding. Again, I've referenced a couple of conversations I've overheard about how people enjoy working with EDF. And that's just going to continue to expand. We would like to work with other environmental groups as long as they have the same kind of commitment that EDF has shown to farmers need to be made whole. If they're going to make an investment, find a way to help them make that investment. Make sure that whatever we're doing is going to be a profit driver for those farmers. Jon Doggett: So these are hard things to do and it's really hard when times are tough and in farm country and we come along and say, "Hey we've got this great relationship with Environmental Defense Fund and you all should be excited about that." It's a little bit of a hard sell. But what I say to farmers that have those kinds of feelings is, "Take a look at what we're doing. Take a look at the benefit that we've had. Get to know somebody from EDF. I think you will be amazed at the availability and accessibility that we've had with this organization." And all of our perspectives get broader. And we talk a lot in agriculture about we need to educate the consumer, we need to educate the environmental community. We're not going to educate the environmental community unless we have a relationship with them. And we have to have that relationship so that both of us listen while the other one talks. David Festa: the cool thing about that, when you actually have that kind of relationship, which we do, is that ... well Jon, I want to go back and I don't know if you remember this, you once told me, when I asked, "What are you most excited about?" And you said something to the effect of, "The things that we haven't even thought of yet." And I still remember that and I think it's fantastic because this partnership has come so far in the years we've worked together. And I'm really excited to see where it will go next. And it is these kind of sidebar conversations where something gets mentioned and one person says, "I wish we could do X." And the other person says, "Wait, I didn't even know X was an issue. Tell me more about that." That is the real power of this, this relationship. Jon Doggett: It's pretty easy to demonize people when you don't know them. And when you do know them, it's a whole lot harder. Dusty Weis: Well, Jon, I know that in episode one of this podcast, you noted how you'd like to use it as a vehicle to get people talking and listening to each other again instead of just shouting over each other. And I think that nowhere is that more evident than in the conversation that we've had here today. So are there any final thoughts that you've been ruminating on? Jon Doggett: Nothing will drive farmers more crazy than have an outside group have a press conference in Washington DC or San Francisco or New York City, talking about how awful production agriculture is when nobody on that dais has ever been on a farm. And now we have a relationship with a group of folks who will, before they make any comments about agriculture, they pick up the phone and we have a conversation and we learn from one another and we talk with one another rather than shout at one another, rather than do press statements condemning the other side. And so we've given a little, and we've gotten a lot out of this relationship and it's been wonderful. Jon Doggett: So as we close want again, thank David Festa, the Senior Vice President of Ecosystems at EDF and I want to thank Nathan Fields, our VP of Sustainability and Production. And lastly, I would like to thank you, Dusty for all your work on this. And again, congratulations on your new addition to your family. And we wish you all the best. Dusty Weis: Oh goodness gracious. Well, on behalf of our newborn baby girl, thank you so much. Jon Doggett, the CEO of the National Corn Growers Association, the host of Wherever Jon May Roam. This has been a fascinating conversation. I hope you all have a great Commodity Classic and we'll be talking to you again next month on the next episode of Wherever Jon May Roam. Dusty Weis: That is going to wrap up this edition of Wherever Jon May Roam, the National Corn Growers Association podcast. New episodes arrive monthly, so make sure you subscribe on your favorite podcast app and join us again soon. Visit NCGA.com to learn more or sign up for the association's newsletter in your email. Wherever Jon May Roam is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association and produced by Podcamp Media branded podcast production for businesses podcampmedia.com or the National Corn Growers Association. Thanks for listening. I'm Dusty Weis.

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