National Sorghum Producers’ advocacy efforts have not slowed down in the past year. From virtual calls with legislators to a virtual industry update, NSP has stayed connected with both its members and lawmakers in Washington, D.C.
In an effort to adapt to the changing environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, National Sorghum Producers transitioned its traditionally in-person spring events to online events. This included a virtual D.C. Fly-In and #SuperSorghum Virtual Industry Forum held in conjunction with Commodity Classic.
Annual D.C. Fly-In
This year’s annual NSP D.C. Fly-In was hosted in a hybrid format where the majority of meetings were held over Zoom the week of February 8-11, and a select group of in-person meetings were held the following week during the U.S. House of Representatives district work week. Over this two-week period, NSP held 57 meetings with Congressional members and their staff. More than 30 NSP members and staff participated in the meetings.
Although an in-person meeting and a handshake on the Hill can never be replicated in a Zoom meeting, the move to virtual meetings has not slowed NSP’s advocacy efforts. Danny Beyer, a member of the NSP board of directors from Odem, Texas, has participated in several past NSP D.C. Fly-Ins as well as the virtual fly in-held this year.
“I was pleased with how the virtual meetings went,” Beyer said. “I feel like we were able to make those connections, they were listening to what we had to say and they heard some things they had not heard before. It worked out very well.”
Amy France, a NSP board member from Marienthal, Kansas, said while she was concerned we would primarily be meeting with staff members, rather than Members of Congress, she was pleasantly surprised with the number of members with whom she was able to meet.
“One advantage to everything being virtual was it seemed like we were able to meet with some of the people we had not been able to meet with before,” France said. “They seemed more accessible, and I was really pleased we were able to meet with and connect with certain members we hadn’t been able to before on the Hill.”
While NSP has adapted to the challenges caused by COVID-19, it is the hope of the staff, board and legislative committee to be back hosting in-person meetings in Washington, D.C., as soon as circumstances allow. This year has given the organization an opportunity to learn a new way to communicate with key officials and Congressional members in the nation’s capital, and this mode of communication will still be utilized when necessary. However, moving forward, NSP plans to be back with boots on the Capitol grounds, meeting in-person when allowed.
“From my perspective,” Beyer said, “I think [D.C. Fly-In] is one of the most important things that we do. Our slogan is ‘We’re in D.C., so you don’t have to be,’ and I think we still accomplished that and will continue to in the future no matter the circumstances we are dealt.”
NSP hosted another round of virtual D.C. meetings the first full week in April. This round of meetings was similar to the meetings hosted earlier in the year, but focused primarily on newly-appointed Agency officials and Senators who were unable to meet with the group during the virtual fly-in in February.
Virtual Industry Forum
NSP also adapted to the 2021 Commodity Classic moving to a completely virtual format. This necessitated not only moving key Commodity Classic events such as the general sessions and the chairman’s roundtable online, but also adapting to how NSP recognized its 2020 Sorghum Yield Contest winners.
Traditionally, NSP honors these winners at a Yield Contest Gala on the final evening of Commodity Classic. Winners, industry partners, guests and staff gather to mingle and celebrate the accomplishments of sorghum growers across the nation. This year, NSP made the best of current circumstances and utilized this opportunity to honor yield contest winners and provide industry updates and insights through a #SuperSorghum Virtual Industry Forum.
The event, sponsored by Pioneer Seeds, featured a keynote with insights from Kansas Senator Jerry Moran. Reece Cannady, U.S. Grains Council manager for global trade and Sorghum Checkoff director Florentino Lopez overviewed opportunities relating to current markets and sorghum demand. This was followed by updates from Sorghum Checkoff Agronomy Director Brent Bean on the No. 1 producer requested advancement in sorghum seed technology—improved grass control with herbicide tolerant sorghum. The full recording of the event can be found on National Sorghum Producers’ YouTube channel.
The 2022 Commodity Classic will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana, on March 10-12. Commodity Classic is currently planning to host the event in-person, and NSP is excited for the opportunity to once again engage with and celebrate the accomplishments of our producers at the event.
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2021 Issue of Sorghum Grower magazine.