New ASA President Bob Metz wants to get a jump-start on the new farm bill.

By Greg Lamp

During his new term as president of the American Soybean Association (ASA), Bob Metz plans to run the group much like he runs his Browns Valley, MN, operation.

“On the farm I surround myself with passionate, intelligent people … a good banker, good accountant and good agronomist,” he says. “I get all their input and then make a decision. That's the strength of our farm and a strength I'll bring to the table at ASA. I have the ability to build coalitions.”

Neil Bredehoeft, last year's ASA president, says, “Bob talks to folks on both sides of an issue and tries to get them going in the same direction. He's a born consensus builder and that will serve him well.”

Metz, a fifth generation farmer, and his wife Karen, grow 1,300 acres of seed soybeans, 1,000 acres of corn and 600 acres of wheat on the border of South Dakota and Minnesota. Officially, he's rooted in South Dakota.

As you talk to Metz, it becomes clear that he's in the right place at the right time. His enthusiasm for the head-honcho position at ASA is written all over his face, plus he's got an impressive track record from involvement in a variety of state and national leadership positions. Already, he's hitting a new set of challenges head on, but will call on experiences from his recent three-year stint as president of the National Biodiesel Board as he takes the helm at ASA.

No. 1 on his and ASA's list of priorities is keeping animal agriculture strong in the U.S. “If the livestock industry leaves the shores of the U.S., the soybean crushing industry will leave as well,” he says. “Poultry and swine are our largest markets. If we lose those industries, we've lost our No. 1 markets. We have to remain vigilant in any laws that pertain to animal production. And we have to help livestock people stay in business.

“We also have to make sure infrastructure — waterways and rails — stay strong so we can move our product to those livestock growing areas,” he says. “If the animal industry moves to South America, they're going to be fed South American soybeans.”

Metz is especially thankful his term coincides with beginning stages of writing drafts of the new farm bill. “We want an early influence and want input on the initial writing,” he says. “We've started the process and have already had discussions with leadership of other national organizations.

“I'm lucky to be in a position at a grassroots organization that can convey to Congress what our membership really wants. I believe we can make a huge difference in how this farm bill is written,” he says. “I expect we'll have some new innovative things in this bill that will change agriculture and I'm excited to be a part of that.”

Generally, Metz believes farmers like the current farm bill, especially the counter cyclical payments provision. But he's convinced a safety net must be maintained to protect such things as changes in world currency or some unforeseen disruption in world grain markets.

Continuing to build and promote biodiesel usage is on his plate this year, too. However, the recent extension of the biodiesel tax incentive and passage of the energy bill have been huge wins for farmers, he says. For example, for every 100 million gallons of soy-based biodiesel demand, the price of a bushel of soybeans is expected to increase by 10¢.

“Renewable fuels are catching on everywhere,” Metz says. “In Europe, for example, their number one driver for renewables is the environment. They see it as a quick route to becoming compliant with the Kyoto protocol. In the U.S., biodiesel wins because of its renewable properties. Europe gives that trait a second place spot on the value chain.”

Like many in leadership positions, Metz believes the fun part of the job is the people he meets. “You end up with friends across the U.S. and in foreign countries.

“But in the end, it's all about making a difference in the profession you love,” he says. “Really, we can only affect the future and be thankful for those in the past who gave us opportunities.

NCGA's new president Gerald Tumbleson believes ag's future depends on more private ownership.

By Greg Lamp

If Gerald Tumbleson had his way, not one raw kernel of U.S. corn would leave the country without being further processed. “Every kernel should get changed into something before it leaves,” says the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) new president from Sherburn, MN.

Tumbleson farms with wife Joanne and two sons, Trent and Trace, in south-central Minnesota. Besides raising 4,000 acres of corn and soybeans, they also finish 21,000 hogs a year. Plus, they're part of another hog finishing co-op where they use the manure to fertilize their acreage.

Tumbleson truly walks the walk. Besides feeding his corn back to hogs and using manure for fertilizer, he's also adding value to his corn crop by marketing the remainder through four separate Minnesota ethanol plants he's invested in. “It's balanced our risk,” he says. “I'm a big believer in private ownership and that's one of the reasons we've invested in ethanol plants and the pig barns. We want ownership and I believe that's the future roadmap for NCGA.”

Part of his enthusiasm for adding value comes from a recent task-force study sponsored by NCGA called, “Taking Ownership of Grain Belt Agriculture. How producers' self-reliance is transforming rural America.” As new president of NCGA, Tumbleson is a pulpit-thumping evangelist for the study's emphasis on entrepreneurship vs. entitlement. It's exactly how he runs his operation and how he believes the future of NCGA needs to chart its course.

“Gerald and I have worked together for a number of years and he brings a lot to the table,” says Leon Corzine, Assumption, IL, who steps down as president October 1. “We've had some big wins this past year, like the energy bill, and Gerald will do a great job of helping implement it and focusing on other ethanol issues. And I'll be around as chairman to help out where I can.”

A No. 1 priority during Tumbleson's tenure will be to work on developing the new farm bill. “I don't want to see much change, except I want to see an increase in the amount of funding for the farm bill,” he says. “Some say the national debt is a problem. But I see higher payments as a way to grow America's future.”

For example, he says in Minnesota, the state put about $30 million into producer payments for each of the state's ethanol plants and now they're getting $300-400 million back.

“People are working, we have more corn being processed, and the investment is paying off. Private investment in America is the answer and government can help stimulate that investment to create opportunities,” Tumbleson says.

Being a strong supporter of the livestock industry is one of NCGA's main agenda issues this year, much like it is for the American Soybean Association, and a passion for Tumbleson. “Livestock is a must. In our operation, for example, we have a complete circle. We raise corn, feed pigs and use waste for manure. It's a way for us to stay environmentally friendly, too,” he says.

Being good environmental stewards, Tumbleson says, has always been a trademark of modern day agriculture. But if it weren't for research, he doesn't believe farmers could care for the land like they do now.

“I know we do a better job of farming now than we did 40 years ago. And we've cleaned up the environment at the same time,” he says. “With today's equipment we can even plant in heavy residue, and that's something my dad couldn't do. A lot of our progress is due to useable research.”

Tumbleson believes basic research is so valuable you can't put a price on it. In fact, he points to advances in ethanol production where in the past a bushel of corn could only produce 2.1-2.2 gal. of ethanol. Today, that same bushel of corn produces 2.8 gal. of ethanol.

“We need research to be able to convert what we raise into a higher value,” he says. “Currently, the National Science Foundation has earmarked $90-100 million for genomics research projects. Once we understand the genomics of a plant we can make it produce what we want, and we can do it at the right economic cost and still remain environmentally friendly.”

Tumbleson says his leadership strength is his ability to facilitate what the grassroots membership of NCGA needs. “I can do that at any level, in Washington, D.C., Brazil, Russia or even in the local grocery store,” he says. “I'm not a politician and I don't like beating around the bush. I like getting things done.”

Tumbleson says he tries to live by his wife's favorite motto: “If you get up in the morning and don't plan to learn something, stay in bed.”