Term as wheat prez is ending

One year ago this month, the board of directors of National Association of Wheat Growers approved my nomination to be its incoming president. This week, my year-long tenure comes to an end.

In many ways, the year has almost been like a whirlwind tour, only stopping at key points of interest along the way, always preparing for the next event on Capitol Hill, the next conference call, the next private conversation in a hotel lobby, coffee shop or cafeteria in a congressional building.

Though I will serve another year as immediate past president, withdrawal from the intense hustle and bustle as the leader will not be an instant let-down, but gradual, as my duties transfer to the incoming leader. I will assist by making the transition a smooth one, giving advice and support along the way, whenever needed.

Only then, after another year has passed, my role in national policy work will end.

I will not miss the time spent traveling between airport hubs and hustling to make the next connection, but I will miss meeting the friends I found along the way.

Back home, I am thankful for a small group of people that have been an integral lifeline for Deborah and me on the farm. All of them have been invaluable in assisting me in keeping the farm going when I am on the road.

To those people who chose to stand in the gap and provide that vital support, I give you my heartfelt gratitude. Thank you!

In my conversations with leaders and associations, including NAWG, the greatest risk a leader takes is when he or she leaves the farm, even temporarily. A ?perfect storm? of events has the potential of inflicting serious financial harm, taking the business under.

At least two out of 51 past presidents come to mind that found themselves in a serious crisis, and they paid the ultimate price of financial difficulty, one of them even losing his spouse to divorce.

The question arises: Why take that risk?

The answer lies in the heart of each individual that considers the task. It is what drives the man or woman to do something that matters and make a difference in the world.

My role model has been Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, who is credited for saving at least a billion lives, thanks to his efforts in plant breeding.

I will never achieve anything remotely similar to his accomplishments. However, one journalist put the issue into perspective with a question about biotechnology: ?As the president of NAWG, what do you want to leave as your legacy when your term is over??

If I were able to move the introduction of biotechnology in wheat closer to reality, that would be a successful endeavor.

Looking back, NAWG has been immensely successful on that issue, and proof of that is increased investment by public and private entities in wheat research during the past decade.

In advocacy work, my goal is similar. By pleading the cause of the American wheat farmer before Congressional members and staff, if we are able to convince enough legislators and move them to endorse favorable legislation that is signed into law, we have succeeded.

Was it worth the effort? Looking back: Yes!

In the past 12 months since I took office, NAWG has accomplished much. With the signing of the farm bill, monitoring its implementation and ensuring there are no major obstacles along the way is no small task. This effort continues to pay off.

In the Pacific Northwest region, we were successful in using high-level contacts within the federal government to bring pressure to bear on the labor dispute between United Grain and the labor union, resulting in an earlier than expected settlement of the strike.

We have and continue to participate in discussions regarding the use and control of data generated by farmers and stored in cloud-based data services. Crucial in initial discussions is the primary directive that the farmer owns and controls the data and has the right to declare who shall have access to it.

We have taken an active role in lobbying for a low level presence standard for export grain shipments as a way of providing assurance to our customers that presence of grain dust and other foreign matter will not exceed a specified level. This is crucial for a future time when wheat breeders are ready to introduce genetically modified germ plasm in wheat.

These four issues are but a portion of the efforts that NAWG has accomplished, and I am grateful to have played a role in them, along with the other officers and staff.

That said, it is time for me to take a step back and hand over the reins of this organization and enjoy some family time with my grand-daughters and our children.

Written By
More from Paul Penner
Agriculture under false attack
Agriculture, farming, ranching and family are synonymous with all things that are...
Read More