Fayette County farmer Ron Rockhold knows how important it is to recruit new members into an agriculture organization like the Southwest Ohio Corn Growers Association. That is why he spent time last year – and every year for that matter – talking to corn growers about joining and getting involved.
What Rockhold didn’t know until Wednesday night was that his recruiting efforts for his organization were the best in the state of Ohio.
During the Corn Growers annual banquet and meeting held at the Fine Arts Building at the Fayette County Fairgrounds, Rockhold found out just how effective his efforts have been.
Guest speaker Tadd Nicholson, Executive Director of the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association, told the audience that Rockhold in 2015 recruited 68 new members into the state organization, more than anyone else in Ohio.
Nicholson thanked Rockhold, a longtime Fayette County corn grower, member of the organization and agriculture advocate for his work in bringing in new members.
“There are four areas we are focusing on at this time,” Nicholson told the corn growers in his address. “Ethanol, exports, water quality and education.”
He said in ethanol, there is now a Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership program in place. “This a pretty smart thing we are looking at. This allowed us to leverage our dollars, about $500,000, which is a huge investment by our board and it was multiplied through this program by a factor of 800 percent and turned into $5.2 million by leveraging it with the government and ethanol industry. We are very proud of this and it has spurred a lot of ethanol infrastructure.”
At this time, the closest ethanol fuel pump is at U.S. 35 and I-71. “There are roughly 125 pumps in Ohio today, and we will double that with the infrastructure investment here in 2016. It has to be this year because the federal government said it has to be spent this year,” Nicholson said.
Several area service stations have applied for grant funding to add an ethanol pump to their station. “The funding is going to go pretty quick,” he said.
He said that the last eight years of the group’s focus has been on ethanol issues, “but the next eight years we will be focusing on exports, both in the Checkoff program and public policies.”
In the water quality area, he said data was nearly ready for farmers to let them know if they change “X” in their procedures they would be less likely to have phosphorus leaving their field by a certain percentage. “A lot of this data is about to come out,” Nicholson said.
The research has been going on for several years, and “We are now about ready to talk about this. I am excited.”
Also speaking at the dinner was Jim Love, Light Robotics Manager and Herbicide Specialist for Beck’s Hybrids. He talked about the legal aspects involved with unmanned aircraft (drones) and collecting data from this new technology.
He took the group out to the parking lot to demonstrate the uses for one of the DJI Phantom 2 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). He discussed the variety of uses for the UAVs and also what he hopes will be changes in the FAA requirements in place this year that will allow farmers the ability to use the drones on their fields for commercial applications without having to go through the present expensive and time-consuming steps to legally fly the drones on their own property.
Gary Brock can be reached at 937-556-5759 or on Twitter at GBrock4.