By JoAnn Brouillette
125th Annual Convention National Grain and Feed Association
The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, Colo.
June 2, 2021
Good morning and thank you for this tremendous turnout for NGFA’s 125th annual convention.
I’m thrilled to join you here at The Broadmoor! This beautiful, historic resort has withstood the test of time. And it’s a marvel to know that NGFA precedes this 103-year-old property by decades.
NGFA certainly has withstood the tests of 125 years. And we continue to learn and adapt. As proof positive, this may be a good time for me to specifically greet and welcome our virtual attendees tuning in from locations across the country. Thank you for adapting with and joining us!
As I stand here and see many of us gathered in- person once again, I am overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude and hopefulness in the promise presented by the year ahead. This year’s convention seems particularly special in that it represents an era of both new beginnings and challenges overcome. My sense is that our industry has emerged stronger than ever, and this year’s convention marks a turning point for renewed energy and focus on the opportunities that await us in the coming months.
Let me start by extending my sincere gratitude for the honor of serving as NGFA Chairman for the past year and for re-electing me to serve in this role into 2022.
It’s especially meaningful to me and my family to serve the Association in the same role that my father – Don Brouillette – served in the 1980s.
Demeter LP, which my grandfather founded in 1944, has been an NGFA member since the late ’50s. This Association has always been a part of my life. In fact, our family vacations revolved around going to the conventions and various NGFA meetings. I vividly remember piling into the station wagon and making stops along the way at different elevators with people my Father had come to know throughout the years being involved in this organization.
Dad always encouraged me to take full advantage of the educational programs offered by the Association and to be involved in its committees. Through that involvement, I’ve gained many lifelong friendships and business relationships that I have relied on to learn and grow throughout my career.
The truth is, throughout the years, I think I’ve gained more from the organization than I’ve given. Our industry is constantly changing, and we have a great community and exceptional advocates in this association. The past year has tested the strength of all of us, and I’m proud to have witnessed the way we overcame unprecedented challenges.
The time since we gathered together in Austin, Texas, last March has been a year of accomplishment for NGFA, as well, which is a testament to the dedication, integrity and drive of the members of this great industry and our staff. I’ve been inspired and proud to witness the way our members stepped up to continue providing essential services during what we all hope was a once-in-a- lifetime global pandemic, ensuring that grain, feed and processing industry operations continued to feed consumers here at home and around the globe.
Although much of the past year may be characterized by supply chain disruptions and a global health emergency, our challenges and accomplishments extend well beyond the pandemic, encompassing multiple facets of NGFA’s wide-ranging portfolio.
For example, in an exciting development, NGFA announced its official partnership with National Grain and Feed Digital Solutions to oversee the Barge Digital Transformation (BDT) system, which officially launched in 2020 and is expected to digitize up to 100,000 negotiable barge bills of lading that NGFA members process each year, achieving a tremendous cost savings for the industry. This platform is being used to transmit bills of lading for movements of corn, DDGS, soybeans and wheat on the Mississippi River waterway. If your company is one of the few in the barge trade not yet signed up, I encourage you to take advantage of this new service!
Also in 2020, NGFA lobbied successfully to secure more robust federal funding to improve inland waterways and ports, as well as regulatory consistency for truckers hauling agricultural commodities.
We capped several years of effort with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to successfully secure a final rule on speculative position limits that preserves and expands critically important hedging and risk-management strategies for the agricultural industry.
In addition, NGFA spearheaded enactment of congressional legislation to reauthorize the U.S. Grain Standards Act, which provides the foundation for the efficient marketing of commodities. What
made this accomplishment remarkable is that this was the only reauthorization bill for any agency enacted by Congress during the 2020 presidential election year!
And importantly, NGFA launched new educational tools to enhance workplace safety for our employees and farmer-customers, including new safety training modules on engulfment-prevention and other topics funded by the National Grain and Feed Foundation.
Most recently, NGFA led a consortium of industry groups in partnering with the Association of American Railroads and its Railinc subsidiary to launch an online resource allowing agricultural shippers to identify the last contents hauled in rail
cars to continue to ensure the highest food safety standards are met and to assist compliance with rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
Accomplishing so much in a disruptive year would have been impossible without the dedication of more than 300 industry members who volunteer their time and talent to serve on NGFA’s Board of Directors and 17 committees and councils, as well as NGFA’s talented professional staff.
In that regard, Randy Gordon retired in March after a nearly 43-year career with NGFA. His leadership, dedication and selfless service were instrumental to the association’s continued growth into one of our nation’s premier agricultural trade associations. I know he is enjoying precious time with his wife, Barbara, and his children and grandchildren.
Following a seamless transition, I know he agrees that NGFA now is in very capable hands with our new President and CEO Mike Seyfert. Since assuming this role on March 1, Mike has demonstrated that he has the vision, energy, intellect, experience and leadership qualities to build on NGFA’s already strong record of achievement. I’m so looking forward to the future of NGFA under his direction.
There has been no time to waste! Our 125th year has been off to a busy start. NGFA is focused on several proactive policy priorities that reflect a changing federal and global landscape.
One major initiative involves communicating the importance of our industry and its policy priorities to new Biden administration officials and members of Congress. That process began shortly after the Nov. 3 election and has continued unabated, as NGFA staff engage directly with newly appointed leaders and staff at federal agencies, as well as members of Congress and their staffs.
Meanwhile, NGFA’s efforts on trade are focused on continuing the China Phase One Agreement while also working to foster a more open, commercial trading environment between the two countries. NGFA also is encouraging the Biden administration to engage in negotiations with Southeast Asian countries, including considering reengaging in the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade accord.
In North American trade, NGFA is focused on working with other organizations to address recent developments in the U.S. trading relationship with Mexico, including the Mexican government’s intention to ban imports of genetically modified corn. NGFA urged Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to take action to renew “a healthy bilateral trade relationship.”
NGFA has encouraged the Biden administration and Congress to renew the president’s trade promotion authority, which is scheduled to expire July 1, to enable the United States to engage in additional negotiations to expand U.S. agricultural trade.
Further, as the Biden administration implements a government-wide focus to address climate change, NGFA is committed to demonstrating the positive contribution of targeted, working lands conservation practices on sequestering carbon, and continues to oppose efforts to idle productive farmland at the expense of crop production. I have appointed a task force reflecting a broad spectrum of NGFA members to recommend areas of climate- related engagement and policy positions for the association.
NGFA also is focused on securing $7 billion to finance congressionally authorized inland waterway navigation projects, including long-delayed lock- and-dam projects on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Waterway system.
In its leadership role on rail policy, NGFA will work with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to implement more rail-to-rail competition. NGFA and a coalition of shipper associations have urged the STB to conduct a thorough review of the proposed merger involving the Kansas City Southern and the Canadian National Railway. We have emphasized that the STB should review mergers using regulations that require railroads to prove a merger would improve competition and avoid service disruptions – and stipulate merger conditions to see that happens.
NGFA’s motor carrier policy work is focused on expanding truck capacity for agriculture, including expanding and clarifying the agricultural exemption under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s hours-of-service rules, creating a pathway for commercial driver’s license-holders aged 18 to 20 to drive on Interstate highways and across state lines, and creating a truck weight pilot program to authorize 91,000 pound trucks with 6-axles on interstate highways.
As the Biden administration develops a COVID-19 emergency workplace safety standard, NGFA is communicating with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as part of “The Employers COVID-19 Prevention Coalition,” which is focused on highlighting reasonable prevention practices for employers.
And NGFA continues to grow its suite of workplace safety resources, as well as demonstrate the value of the NGFA-OSHA Alliance.
The Association will continue work with the Food and Drug Administration and USDA to prevent the introduction of foreign animal diseases like African Swine Fever (ASF) into the United States. NGFA also is engaged with FDA on several ongoing rulemakings implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act.
These are just a few highlights of the start of an already active and productive year for the NGFA as it commemorates a milestone birthday.
Our Association was first formed as the Grain Dealers National Association to meet several overarching needs, including creating a uniform system of grain inspection and grading; establishing a system for settling trade disputes; presenting a united front to rail carriers; and creating equitable rules governing the trade of grain and feedstuffs, as well as ethical business practices. Started by 38
men gathered in Room 111 of Chicago’s Saratoga Hotel on Nov. 9, 1896, it has grown and been transformed into the most diverse and all- encompassing agribusiness association in America, representing nearly 1,100 members engaged in all sectors of the industry.
We are celebrating this milestone with a series of initiatives focused on lofty goals for the future of the industry and the release of the first-ever NGFA tagline – “Transforming America’s Harvest.”
This new tagline highlights and captures the noble purpose NGFA’s member companies perform day-in and day-out in transforming American farmers’ bounty into safe, nutritious, sustainable and affordable human and animal food. Throughout the year, NGFA will celebrate “Transforming America’s Harvest” with initiatives that focus on the industry’s future and how best to position it to continue enhancing the economic performance of U.S. agriculture in a global open market environment.
The first theme for NGFA’s anniversary is:
Transforming the Face of Our Future: Fostering an inclusive environment that attracts people of diverse backgrounds and cultures is essential to the well-being, vitality and future of the industry and the NGFA. Earlier this year, the National Grain and Feed Foundation launched a scholarship in partnership with the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) national society. The Foundation will provide support to MANRRS student members who are engaged in undergraduate or graduate studies in the grain, feed or processing industry or a closely related field.
The second theme is:
Transforming the Health of Our Lands: Targeting the most environmentally sensitive portions of
farmland with proven conservation practices will serve to increase the health of America’s soil, air and water, as well as boost rural economies that depend on agricultural production. The Foundation has funded a study that will document the economic benefits of U.S. grain and feed production and the adverse global impact of idling productive U.S. land, including the signal it would send to global competitors to convert more tropical rainforest and other environmentally sensitive land to replace sustainable U.S. production.
Our third theme is:
Transforming Workplace Safety Culture: Creating a culture of safety in every facility and farm where grain is handled will contribute to a healthier and happier agricultural community and
potentially save lives that are tragically lost in grain- related incidents every year. To supplement an already robust suite of safety training materials available at ngfa.org/safety, NGFA will publish a new “Firefighting Manual: A Guide for Operators of Grain Handling Facilities and Fire Department Officials” later this year.
And our fourth theme is:
Transforming Global Markets to be More Open: NGFA will redouble its trade policy efforts designed to create a more open global market environment in which our export industry can operate to further enhance global food security. After all, feeding the world is the noble purpose to which our industry is dedicated.
While these 125th anniversary themes complement our annual policy and program work at NGFA, they are meant to be far-reaching and transformative – it will take more than just one year of work to achieve them! That’s why it’s important to encourage all talent at our member companies to become engaged actively and earnestly in this Association, and to take advantage of what it has to offer. When my Dad encouraged me to get involved as a young woman just beginning my career, he recognized that our industry’s future depends on attracting and retaining the best talent. To be competitive, we need to provide a path for this talent to move into and advance within our industry.
NGFA’s Committee Apprentice Program is one of the best gateways for the transformative ideas that young people can bring. Our sixth CAP class, which has been extended an extra year given the pandemic shutdowns, already has demonstrated its talent, commitment and value to NGFA. We welcome the energy, ideas and contributions of these apprentices as they continue important committee work. If your company has not taken advantage of this program, please reach out to any NGFA staff member or former CAP to learn more about how to get involved!
We also can equip our industry for the next century by participating in the Grain and Feed PAC, which is one of the best and most direct ways to establish and maintain relationships with members of Congress.
Finally, I’ve made several references to the National Grain and Feed Foundation and the investments it is making to positively transform our future. During this convention, we’ve set a goal of raising $50,000 as part of our “Fill-the-Bin” challenge to help fund what we need to accomplish in each of our goals for the future. Making a generous, 100 percent tax- deductible donation to the Foundation is the most direct way to contribute to achieving these goals.
I noted earlier that it’s been a challenging – and almost unbelievable – year since we last saw each other! But as my remarks today have emphasized, this historic organization and the foundation upon which it is built is strong. If anything, these challenges have given us a new sense of resolve and optimism – a “can-do spirit” that has long been a hallmark of our industry. I see that reflected in my conversations with you here at The Broadmoor and in my discussions with colleagues and staff about the future of this Association.
That same sense of purpose and forward-looking optimism was reflected in the tribute to our founders in the book commemorating NGFA’s Centennial in 1996, which reads: “May our industry forever be blessed to operate and prosper under the free enterprise system you have fought and worked so hard to attain – an economic system that provides equality of opportunity, enhances personal freedom, and rewards motivation, sacrifice and hard work, and, in so doing, advances the well-being of humankind.”
We’ve already been through several transformations as an industry and as an organization. Surely, more will come. But I have no doubt that we can – and will – continue Transforming America’s Harvest for another 125 years!
Thank you again for the honor of serving as NGFA’s Chairman.