The Illinois Association FFA’s 25 section presidents and five major state officers boarded a plane on July 15 and took off to Washington, D.C.
While there, the state officer team had the opportunity to watch the National Corn Growers business session, visit with representatives at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Grains Council, the Environmental Protection Agency and many agricultural lobbyists to learn about the current issues facing the agricultural industry.
The state officers worked alongside the Illinois Corn Growers and Illinois Corn Marketing Board to advocate on the Hill for infrastructure, trade agreements and ethanol.
While there, we interviewed some of the Corn Growers and Corn Marketing Board members to understand why they are genuinely passionate about what they do.
• Ted Mottaz from Elmwood is currently serving as the Illinois Corn Grower’s president, and he has been a member for nine years.
• Don Duvall from Carmi is currently serving as the chairman of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board.
• Rodney Weinzierl from Stanford is currently the executive director of the Illinois Corn Growers and has been a member of the Illinois Corn Growers Association for 31 years.
• Paul Jeschke from Mazon has been an Illinois Corn Grower member for decades.
• Kenneth Hartman from Waterloo is currently serving as a board member of the National Corn Growers. He has been a member of the association for 20 years.
• Matt Rush from Fairfield is currently serving as the Illinois Corn Grower’s treasurer.
We want to thank the Illinois Corn Growers for making this trip possible. It truly is an amazing eye-opening experience and it wouldn’t be possible without them.
What inspired you to be an Illinois Corn board member?
Jeschke: I wanted to be part of a group that had more of an effect than I could have as an individual. The collectiveness of farmers has a lot more strength, a lot more influence, a lot more opportunity to change things than working on legislative issues by ourselves.
Rush: I was chairman of Young Leaders, and after that, I wanted to stay involved in agriculture. Then the spot for district director opened up for Illinois Corn, and I applied.
What do you hope to achieve while in your position?
Mottaz: I want to establish a good “corn reputation” with the general society. The public seems to have a lot of ideas about what corn is, and they don’t understand what it’s actually used for; when you see the Nike swoosh, you know what they are and what they do. I want an ear of corn to have the same effect.
Jeschke: I want to be a part of a group that holds some sort of influence on a national level. I want to be able to handle any sort of government issues that may come up because an organization like this can carry a lot more weight.
What advice would you give to the next generation of agriculturists?
Weinzierl: Stay involved and meet people. It’s all about relationships. You may have heard somebody say something similar to this, but it is 100% true. The people you know and you try to educate are really important whether it’s when you need help or in the Corn Growers perspective when you are working issues. If you know people who can also benefit from a topic or are even in the decision-making process of the issue, it provides an advantage, so stay connected.
Hartman: We’ve got to keep working hard and supporting our products and our farmers. Also, remember to stay involved. People have to be involved to make sure that there is someone representing farmers in politics and the media.
How do you approach or handle the situation when someone disagrees with you on an agricultural issue?
Duvall: Be sure to communicate your issues and be willing to listen to other people’s positions because inevitably there will be times where they have some things that are maybe better than your position.
Weinzierl: Somebody will always disagree with you, no matter what. Farmers are a small group of people and frankly isn’t too good at talking about what they truly do. Stop talking about facts and science and start talking about why things are done. Take it down to basics. You will never come out an argument all right or all wrong. There is an in-between where we normally stay, but all you can do is help the opposing side see why you believe what you believe.