The Institute for Rural America has been active in initiating roundtable dialogues and promoting conferences of various sorts to assist farmers and members of rural communities. 

  • Our Goal: Educational programs and conferences that inform producers and community leaders about managing the impacts of international trade agreements, and governments decreasing role in agricultural support. We continue to develop these and emphasize self help in defining and initiating activity that supports and enhances opportunity in the new environment.

Institute awards new leadership grant
Summer 2008

Young faces. Bright minds. A conference focused on developing National Farmers’ future leaders held in St. Joseph, Mo., Aug. 8-9 attracted more than 30 producers from Indiana to the Pacific Ocean.

“We want to bring along and help develop the ag leaders of tomorrow,” said Cindy Fitterling, Institute for Rural America president. We want to help them learn skills as basic as parliamentary procedure to the big concepts of marketing in today’s ag world. “The goal of course is to help these young producers move forward, where they can be leaders in their own community, and perhaps within National Farmers, too.”


MO Senator Shoemyer

And the importance of leadership was emphasized by the opening speaker of the conference, Missouri State Senator and former National Farmers director, Wes Shoemyer. “We’re in a time in agriculture where we just can’t keep on doing the same thing we’ve been doing,” he said.

Shoemyer became involved in advancing Missouri farmer interests because of the tough economic times many were experiencing in the late 90s. After reviewing the ag policy positions of all major Missouri ag organizations at the time, he found four issues of common agreement.


President Fitterling

“We held meetings around the state and focused on COOL, mandatory price reporting, discriminatory pricing and provisions that allowed for cooperative development and provided incentives for farmers to work together with new generation ag co-ops.

“I saw a desperate need for something to happen in agriculture in the state of Missouri” he said. “I had a thousand farmers show up on the steps of the state capitol...I think I was more successful before I was elected, as far as getting all that legislation introduced and passed.”

“I don’t believe I would have had the confidence to do what I do (as a Missouri State Senator) if it wasn’t for the experience I received with National Farmers Organization as a national board member,” he said. It gave me that background and the confidence to know it was OK for me to step out there and make a difference. 

“The things you learn here…will serve each one of you well. It has served me well. It has given me a lot of opportunities, of which I am very thankful. Be a leader in your community.”

Lorenz educates in grain

Pete Lorenz, a National Farmers grain marketing representative, covered current market conditions and how they are affecting cash sales and risk management opportunities. He spoke about the outside influences in grain markets, and things producers can do on their own to deal with volatility. “And perhaps most importantly, when farmers work together they can have some control over what happens to their grain prices.”

Food system examined

Dr. Mary Hendrickson, Extension assistant professor at the University of Missouri, spoke about the global and consolidated food system, and the impact concentration will have on the future of domestic production.

Hendrickson covered food retailing, and the role private equity has played in agriculture.

“Consumers are increasingly worried about where their food is coming from, efforts addressing quality and safety is a quickly growing sector.”

She said when producers decide to move away from commodity livestock sales and into specialized markets, they should focus on producing high quality products, see that consumers pay more for that quality and safety, and make sure those consumers continue to eat that product and remain loyal to that brand.

Cooperation and Linking Offer Unbeatable Transactions (CLOUT): The Institute played a background role in helping to encourage and initiate an informational conference for commercial farmers and ranchers both large and small. This work resulted in the CLOUT conference, ultimately sponsored by Successful Farming® magazine,
National Farmers Organization, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, USDA Rural Development, Iowa State University and the
Iowa Institute for Cooperatives.


Pork & Poultry Growers Roundtable: Pork producers expressed concerns about the consolidation of pork production and processing in the US and it’s impact on hog markets and contracts. In response to those concerns the Institute organized several roundtable discussions between pork producers with poultry growers organizations. Poultry has experienced consolidation and the development of contract production structures.  The poultry growers have seen both challenge and opportunity during their industries period of industry consolidation and shared their views with the pork producers. This provided the pork producers with the opportunity to reflect on potential outcomes in their industry.

Dairy & Livestock Risk Management: In collaborating with the Northeast Center for Risk Management Education the Institute organized a training session in New York for dairy and livestock producers.