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Director of Iowa corn group prioritizes education

Posted on September 18, 2014 at 4:44 PM by Iowa Corn

Courtesy Iowa Farmer Today
Bruce Rohwer checks corn he planted in 15-inch rows on his farm.
Rohwer has been an Iowa corn leader after being in politics before farming.
PAULLINA — Bruce Rohwer is following in the family history of farming and education. He has combined those to become a commodity group leader.

Rohwer, who grows corn and soybeans and raises hogs in Northwest Iowa, says his great-grandfather farmed just east of town. His grandfather settled here in 1905.

His father, who had a Ph.D. in rural sociology and had taught at Iowa State University and Oklahoma State University, returned to the farm in 1951. For years, his father taught an anthropology course at the nearby colleges while he farmed.

“I grew up here,” he says. Rohwer attended high school at the Scattergood School in West Branch.

He says the experience with interacting with students and teachers from different backgrounds, including international students, helped him broaden his outlook.

While in high school, Rohwer took a class trip to Washington, D.C., and New York City to get his first taste of politics.

After high school, he attended Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. He started out studying science, but ended up with a double major of political science and international relations.

Rohwer says that education has helped him in agriculture.

In college and afterwards, he worked in various roles in the political system, including working: in a U.S. senator’s office, for a lobbying organization and on political campaigns. He came back to farm with his father in 1975.

“I was tired of living out of a suitcase,” he says.

Rohwer notes he was able to experience the boom in the late 1970s and then the farm crisis in the 1980s.

“We were well placed on that roller- coaster ride,” he says.

In 1983, Rohwer’s father retired from the grain operation but remained active in family beef operation until he retired in 1988. His father audited some college courses after he retired.

Rohwer became active in various groups when his kids were in high school. He was a board member for the Scattergood School.

He also served on the AGRI Industries board that included Mrs. Clark’s foods. Rohwer says serving on the board he learned about the retail-business end and also working with other grain companies as well.

He then got involved with the Iowa Corn Growers Association. Rohwer was active in politics with the PAC and committees that dealt with farm policy at the state and national levels. He was president in 2013.

“That was a natural fit,” he says.

Rohwer got involved in the corn-research committees at the state and national levels with his interest in science.

“I enjoy learning things,” he notes.

His son, Keith, and daughter, Carmen Billick, came back to farm.

In addition, to the corn and soybean farm, Rohwer and his son run a land-improvement company.

Rohwer says they are trying some new things, such as patterning tiles on the contours and using drainage to provide water to the crops during the dry time of the summer.

Last year, he made the switch to 15-inch rows in cornfields as way to increase plant populations. In his farming operation, he says they always are trying new practices to improve how they do things and leave it better for future generations.

Tim Hoskins, Iowa Farmer Today

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