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Farmer leaders make a difference

Sorghum Focus: Authentic farmer voices at Commodity Classic make the industry stand up and pay attention.

John Duff

April 9, 2024

3 Min Read
Craig Meeker speaks during the 2024 Commodity Classic General Session
FARMER LEADERS: Craig Meeker (center) speaks during the 2024 Commodity Classic General Session. Meeker, a farmer from Wellington, Kan., is the chairman of the National Sorghum Producers. Holly Spangler

As I write this month’s column, I’m sitting in my office for the first time in a week, having just spent six days in Houston attending Commodity Classic. For anyone who has never attended, I strongly recommend it, if for no other reason than to see the state-of-the-art agricultural equipment on the floor of the trade show.

For this farm boy, it was better than all the toy stores of childhood combined. But the week also represents a tremendous networking opportunity with everyone from retailers to suppliers to agricultural organizations such as those for which I consult, National Sorghum Producers and the Sorghum Checkoff.

As always, people are our most valuable assets. 

This year’s Commodity Classic, which appropriately featured an astronaut as its keynote speaker (we were in Houston, after all), was one for the record books. Upward of 11,500 were in attendance and, on a personal note, I think I had more opportunities to engage all along the supply chain than ever before. (Translation: My schedule was stacked with back-to-back meetings all week.)

However, I also was reminded, perhaps more poignantly than ever, of the importance of farmers who step up to lead. 

For those who aren’t familiar, Commodity Classic is first and foremost the capstone annual meeting of the sorghum, wheat, corn, soybean and agricultural equipment industries. In this spirit, a highlight of the week occurs when five leaders representing each of these five industries take the stage to discuss everything from their faith to their outlook on grain markets.

This year’s lineup of leaders was one of the best in recent memory, with each one of the five shining in their own way and complementing the other four well. I’m a bit biased, but National Sorghum Producers Chairman and Kansas farmer Craig Meeker shined particularly brightly and, in doing so, reminded me of the importance of farmer leaders. 

In my business (advocating for and strategizing on behalf of farmers), solid leaders who can speak not only on behalf of farmers but as farmers themselves are crucial. As someone who receives his primary paycheck rain or shine, my words only go so far. However, those farmers who have their own skin in the game but believe in a greater cause enough to leave that skin at home at an important juncture of the year really tell the story of agriculture — not just in words, but in that act of stepping off the farm to lead.

These leaders also add incredible perspective to the hard conversations that seem to occur almost every day. Farmers approach challenges with a different mindset than just about anyone else I can think of, so their leadership through the adversity we face in agriculture is invaluable for more than one reason.

So, my sincere gratitude goes out to any farmer leader — whether they’re a deacon, a cooperative board member or the chairman of a commodity group. Lending the perspective of agriculture is helpful, regardless of the venue!

For those sorghum farmers interested in becoming leaders, it’s a great time to step up given Leadership Sorghum Class VII applications just opened. Interested farmers should visit sorghumcheckoff.com/uscp-launches-search-for-leadership-sorghum-class-vii to learn more and apply before the close of business (5 p.m. CDT) Sept. 13. The sorghum industry needs all kinds! 

About the Author(s)

John Duff

John Duff is founder of Serō Ag Strategies and serves as a consultant to National Sorghum Producers.

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