By Matt Reese
I cannot deny the weather was pleasant in Orlando for Commodity Classic, but that does not mean I’d want to live there. My Uber driver Patrick took me from the hotel to an industry event at Downtown Disney. On the way, we discussed the beautiful weather, which Patrick was sure to highlight.
“The Florida weather is nice in March, but I sure wouldn’t want to live here in the heat of the summer,” I replied and Patrick agreed that the heat and humidity were tough to take.
“Plus,” I said, “We don’t have giant snakes, insects and alligators in Ohio trying to eat us, so I am perfectly content there.”
With this statement Patrick explained to me with great zeal the tale of an elderly women walking her little dog that had been eaten by a Florida alligator just the previous week.
“Wait…the alligator ate the woman or the dog?” I asked for clarity.
“THE WOMAN!” Patrick emphasized.
Patrick then went on to explain alligators’ ability to climb over and escape from the chain link fencing around lakes and swamps separating the reptiles from tourist/shopping areas, housing developments and apartment buildings, including his. He then got on the topic of the non-native anacondas and pythons reproducing in the wilds of Florida. As he dropped me off, we agreed on the merits of places like Ohio where such things were not an issue, but to focus on the nice weather for the time being in Orlando.
Since my mid-March visit to sunny Orlando, I have been asked numerous times (with varying degrees of jealousy) how I enjoyed my trip to sunny Florida during one of the gloomiest times of year in Ohio. The truth of the matter, though, is I only really saw the glow of the convention center lights for the vast majority of my time at Commodity Classic. Other than a mile-long walk to an event one evening and the stroll across the street from the hotel to the convention center, I was not outside at all.
There are certainly some farm families who travel together to the event and stay an extra day or two to visit the attractions or take some time to stroll the beach, but with a jam-packed schedule of meetings, receptions, recognitions, events, and a massive trade show, there is plenty at Commodity Classic to keep the nation’s farmer leaders quite busy without ever leaving the show.
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 in an interview with Dusty Sonnenberg. “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.”
Sure, there is some time for fun too, but for much of Commodity Classic, it is all business for the farmer leaders (and farm editors) who attend. I really enjoyed the trip, but after a couple of intensely scheduled days of meetings, interviews and networking, I was glad to get back to alligator-free Ohio in March — just in time for a man to be attacked and seriously injured by an upset male zebra in Circleville.
Oh well, better weather is coming, I hope.