NCGA president Kevin Ross

NCGA president Kevin Ross, announced a partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund to start the Success in Stewardship program during a press conference at Commodity Classic Feb. 27.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Conservation was the top issue discussed by the National Corn Growers Association at Commodity Classic Feb. 27.

During a press conference at the annual event, the NCGA announced a partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund to start the Success in Stewardship program, which will promote the environmentally conscious practices now being used on U.S. farms and work to increase those efforts.

“Sustainably grown corn is one way that we can preserve our resources but also our competitive advantage,” said Kevin Ross,

NCGA president and a grower from Minden, Iowa. “The U.S. is full of growers committed to meeting society’s needs while reaching our goals in healthy soil and clean water.”

Success in Stewardship is billed as a way to connect farmers and programs involved in conservation practices. According to a press release, the program is “not an annual award program, but rather an ongoing recognition initiative for all farmers who meet the initiative’s criteria.”

Ross praised another initiative, the Illinois Corn Growers Association’s Precision Conservation Management Program, which works across five watersheds in Illinois and Kentucky, showing how conservation practices can affect society and farm income.

Travis Deppe, the director of the PCM program, said their ultimate goal is to show farmers how they can implement conservation practices while offering environmental and economic sustainability for the future. He said they have been bringing on corporate sponsors as well.

“I’m excited and honored to see PCM recognized for the hard work our farmers and field staff are putting in every day,” Deppe said. “They deserve all the praise. And I'm just excited to be a part of the innovative spirit of the work.”

The NCGA also discussed global issues, with Ross saying the group is feeling good with the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement and phase one agreement with China. However, with recent fears of coronavirus hurting the markets, he said it’s hard to know what the future might hold.

“(USMCA) is definitely long-term security in the marketplace, which is a good thing moving forward,” Ross said. “Japan and China I think are very good steps forward for us. Certainly coronavirus has concerns for a lot of people broadly, whether its ag markets or financial markets. That’s a tough one to quantify at the moment. ”

The group also addressed concerns some of its members discussed about electric vehicles and how that industry might affect the outlook on corn demand.

“There’s certainly a strong push behind that, and those vehicles are not running on ethanol,” Ross said. “It’s definitely a concern, I think, but we’ve got to worry about our ethanol promotions in general and how we can move those programs forward.”

Jon Doggett, CEO for NCGA, said the group has had conversations with the California Air Resources Board and car makers. He said everyone realizes electric cars will take time to gain a sizeable market share.

“(California has) come to the realization they need to decarbonize sooner rather than later in their transportation system,” Doggett said. “The quickest way to do that is utilize more ethanol in their liquid fuels that are available in the state. I think we are on the cusp of some interesting actions taken by the state government.”

Ross also addressed a recent tweet from President Donald Trump that suggested a possible third year of Market Facilitation Program payments. Some analysts indicated that could mean exports to China could take longer than expected to pick up, but Ross said it shouldn’t affect the way farmers go about their process in 2020.

“As a farmer, every year, I think, you are trying to plant just about everything you can,” Ross said. “Unless you are actively trying to place your ground in the CRP program or things like that. I don’t make money on idle acres.”