By Dusty Sonnenberg and Matt Reese
Though travelers visit Orlando every winter to soak in some sunshine, many Commodity Classic attendees typically get more tan lines from the glow of the convention center lighting. Meetings, networking at receptions and trade show conversations keep them indoors for much of their time in sunny Florida.
Months-worth of business is conducted in just a few days as corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum farmer leaders from around the country gather to set policy, share ideas and learn from each other at Commodity Classic. Ohio is home to many of those farmer leaders.
Early in the event, David Clark from Montgomery County found himself in required attendance at two simultaneous meetings based on his multiple national level roles. Clark serves as the vice president for the North Central Soybean Research Program (NCSRP) and vice chair of the Soy Transportation Collation (STC).
NCSRP takes a broad look at pest and disease issues around the production area while STC looks at transportation infrastructure.
“They both met simultaneously. We had two breaks at NCSRP, so I ran across the hall and sat in for 30 minutes on STC board and then, fortunately, after lunch STC still had some business to discuss, so I was able to join in on that part of meeting. It is a busy time down here,” Clark said at the event. “At NCSRP, it’s more of behind-the-scenes trying to outline how to more effectively do the research and bring that to the table for the farmer. One nice thing with NCSRP is that, as a group, we work together looking at pest and disease issues that not only affect Ohio, but also our neighbors. A lot of these things are pathogens or insects that are migratory — they will move. The fact that we don’t have something now doesn’t mean that we may not have something later. The biggest example right now that we’re working with is the gall midge that’s been found in Kansas and parts of Missouri. That could very easily come east to Ohio and we’re trying to stay ahead of everything. The big key is working together as a group so we can work together to try to come to a solution. I feel that’s why it’s important to look beyond Ohio sometimes because bugs don’t know a state line.”
Across the hall, STC was at work tackling massive logistical issues impacting the movement of the nation’s farm products to market.
“STC is something that I really enjoyed getting into because some of these research proposals could affect a lot of people. It’s just really interesting to be able to be a part of that board to be able to look ahead and try to help farmers. It really helps everybody — it’s not just Ohio,” Clark said. “One of the biggest things that is still going on is the deepening project in the lower Mississippi. STC was instrumental in funding the research to prove that would be worthwhile and have a good economic impact. It’s served not just our industry, but all kinds of industries that use our inland waterways. It’s fun because you get to have a part of it and there’s a vision to it. It’s not just throwing money against wall and seeing what sticks. We’re actually trying to do stuff to really better our industry.”