In a volatile market, it's good to have experience on your side. So it's perfect timing for Nebraska's Bob Dickey to take the presidential reins of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).

Dickey, Laurel, NE, is a former state senator in the Nebraska legislature, grows irrigated and dryland corn and soybeans, custom feeds pigs, has cattle on feed in a custom feedlot, and to diversify his operation has invested in ethanol plants and an organic soybean processing plant.

Off the farm, Dickey has served in several positions on the Nebraska Corn Checkoff Board, including chairman; same with the U.S. Grains Council. He's also a member of the Nebraska Cattlemen's Association and the Nebraska Pork Producers Association.

He's well aware of how prices and politics affect American agriculture whether the issue is food, feed or fuel. And, he can speak from experience about each sector of the industry.

Dickey plans to talk about food and fuel — not food vs. fuel — throughout his presidency. “I'm confident that producers can be a steady supplier to both markets,” Dickey says. “The market will decide what's planted. Farmers are finally getting their price through the market, and it's important they continue to get their price through the market.”

As both a crop and livestock producer, Dickey understands the double-edged sword that comes with high corn prices. “I enjoy high corn prices, but there's a limit to how much the end user can pay,” he says. “My desire is that everybody in the supply chain makes some money. The market needs to be win-win — it doesn't make any difference which side you're on.

“I'VE BEEN IN the valley a number of times when commodity prices were low. It wasn't that many years ago that I was selling hogs for $10,” he says. “It's tough for the livestock industry right now, but there will be better days in the future.

“It's an exciting time to be involved in agriculture. We haven't begun to see all the changes that are coming in the industry,” he says. “But it's also a volatile time that makes risk-management tools much more important. The rewards in agriculture have never been greater, but neither have the risks.”

Risk management is more than just crop insurance and a good marketing plan, according to Dickey. “Producers haven't been engaged in both buying inputs in advance and selling production out in the future. We need to do a better job in both arenas,” he says. “When you can lock in a profit, it's prudent to do that. You should be smiling all the way to the bank, and not worrying if the market goes higher.”

Promoting ethanol also will be high on Dickey's list of priorities as NCGA president. “Do we want to be dependent on foreign oil?” he asks. “Ethanol is a relatively new industry in the U.S. You can see its potential when you look at Brazil. Not too many years ago, Brazil imported 80% of its energy. Now they're energy independent.

“Energy costs are affecting all of us in the U.S. in various ways whether you're a farmer, a transporter or an end user,” he says. “Ethanol has helped cheapen those fuel prices.”

Regardless of the issues he will face as NCGA president, Dickey knows what he expects of himself. “I like to treat people the way I want to be treated. It's important to have a positive mental attitude. That goes a long way in dealing with people and an organization,” he says. “When I finish my job as an ambassador for agriculture I hope people can say I'm leaving it better than when I entered.”