Ryland Utlaut likes to compare the uniting of two corn organizations to buying a new combine.

"I can drive a 10-year-old combine that does the job," says the new National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) president. "But manufacturers come with new models. A lot of times we're skeptical when a new one comes out.

"But generally it works better than in the past, and that's the way I'm looking at this new organization," Utlaut says.

NCGA is joining forces with the National Corn Development Foundation (NCDF), the organization that collects checkoff funds from state corn boards for national corn research and promotion. It uses the same staff as NCGA and is run by many of the same board members, says Utlaut, who farms near Grand Pass, MO.

"We were both trying to achieve the same thing, and we feel we can achieve more with one mind instead of two," agrees Gene Fynboh, NCDF president and Brandon, MN, farmer.

The new organization will keep the NCGA name. It is to become legitimate this month, after both boards vote. Fynboh is chairing the transition team.

One of the biggest challenges the new NCGA will face is self-imposed.

Current annual market value of U.S. corn is $27 billion. NCGA wants a figure of $40 billion at the farm gate by 2002.

"We need to start merchandising our product," Fynboh says. "We've been kind of waiting for someone else to do it."

The $40-billion goal looks aggressive, but it's only an 8% growth rate per year, says Fynboh. "But it is something that's going to give us a challenge."

They hope to meet that challenge with increased corn acreage and continued growth of the U.S. market. New crop uses and increased exports will also be part of the strategy.

NCGA will also be structured into three efficient bodies:

* The corn board will manage day-to-day work of NCGA.

* The corn congress will set policy and overall direction.

* Corn action teams will define and implement programs.

Action teams and task forces will allow more people to work within the organization.

"That would enable us to get the services of, say, a Minnesota farmer interested in serving on an ethanol task force even though he's not on a board," Utlaut says. "We'll get more input from more people."

Other advantages: time and money savings and less duplication of efforts.

Another change: The new NCGA will no longer be funded through fixed baseline funding.

It will be supported by member dues and voluntary state checkoff board contributions according to a three-year rolling-average budget of revenues and expenses dedicated to achieving specific goals of the organization.