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I-LEAD Class 8 Session 2

Posted on February 10, 2017 at 8:00 AM by Iowa Corn


The topics and themes for Session 2 generally focused on communicating, advocating, and media. How appropriate, then, that the Iowa Supreme Court ruling related to the Des Moines Waterworks vs. drainage districts lawsuit was released on Friday morning. This meant we got to see behind the scenes on a big news day; it also meant a few of our speakers had a little less time and focus to share their wealth of knowledge with us. I believe we all enjoyed being on hand for the big event at any rate.

“We’re not a substitute for grassroots efforts.”

Mindy and Amanda DeJong shared a snapshot of what they’re currently working on in Iowa and federal government. One message they returned to multiple times was that they could only share facts and information. Grassroots efforts are what really push legislative action. For 2017, the bipartisan, pro-agriculture focus of the ICGA policy book focus on environment and conservation, ag economy and trade, renewable fuels, farm bill, and tax policies.

“What’s good for the economy is not necessarily what’s being done in Iowa.”

Mark Fischer from the Iowa Economic Development Authority International Trade Office, shared valuable information related to Iowa (and U.S.) agricultural trade (exports and imports) across the globe. Critical pieces include relationship development, limitations and opportunities in the export market, new market exploration, new product and services, and competition.

A few pieces of information:

  • 95% of the world’s population lives outside the U.S.
  • 75% of the world’s purchasing power is held by countries other than the U.S.
  • 80% of the global economic growth is happening outside the U.S.
  • For every $1billion exported, 5,400 new jobs are created.

Therefore, we need to keep globalization, competition, and sensitivity to emerging trends in the forefront of our industry.

“Being around really good people.”

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey visited with us, too. The informal discussion almost took on a storytelling tone as Secretary Northey described how ethanol rose to prominence, how Iowa ag stakeholders came to proactively develop Iowa’s nutrient reduction strategy, and how critical it is for farmers to tell their story so consumers regain trust. Even though Iowa is, area-wise, smaller than many other agricultural states, our STATE alone produce more pork than all but two other countries (China and the U.S.), and more soybeans than all but three other countries (the U.S., Brazil, and Argentina). Secretary Northey also shared his favorable impressions of U.S. Secretary of Agriculture nominee, former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. Before he left, he took a few questions and responded regarding his expectations for the I-LEAD Class 8 (“advocate for ag with non-ag folks”), how he refocuses (“a lot of reading”), and important leadership challenges (“actively listen to challenges,” “what can we do for someone else?”).

“We’re off to Japan and Korea!”

The decision-making process for a group this size can be a challenge. I think many of us came away from the process with a good understanding of what “buy-in” really means. When a final consensus (by a super majority, in this case) is made, we need to surrender our own goals and biases and work together to accomplish a task, no matter what “side” of the debate we were on before the final vote.

“Targeted media relations and a good strategy.”

Lisa Cassady, Iowa Corn Public Relations Manager, spent a bit of her busy morning with us to share how PR works for a member-driven organization. Reminding Class 8 that we are all brand ambassadors, we discussed how to be a spokesperson for a cause or issue. She reminded us of all the tools we have as ICGA and I-LEAD members. Ms. Cassady’s talk set the stage for the media awareness training later in the day.

“I gotta find a farmer.”

Possibly the most engaging segment of the session (and they were all very interesting) was Lauri Freking from Wixted & Company. As a former news journalist, Ms. Freking shared that every story has multiple perspectives to share. The importance of volunteering information from our own perspective (or networking better-prepared resources) is critical because, as she stated multiple times, “in the absence of information, people will believe the worst.” MS. Freking led the group through an issue definition exercise which helped to focus a clear, positive message for an issue facing some facet of the Iowa corn industry. We also discussed how to minimize negative messaging, and how to bridge a statement from a simple question back to that clear, positive message.

Session 2, all around, was a good opportunity to learn, practice, and build skills related to communications. We’re all looking forward to putting these skills into play during subsequent sessions.

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