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Featured in Farm World, by Tim Alexander

The theme for the 2013 Illinois Commodity Conference, set for Nov. 26 at the Normal Marriott Hotel, will be “Connect With Your Customer.”

“The conference represents a good opportunity for farmers in Illinois to see coalition-building and how the state agricultural commodity organizations are working together to improve agriculture as a whole,” said Lindsay Mitchell, special projects coordinator for Illinois Corn.

“Primarily, the Illinois Commodity Conference is held to invest in our leadership and to promote leadership among Illinois agriculture and Illinois farmers.”

Conference sponsors include Illinois Corn, along with the state’s soybean, pork, beef, milk and wheat associations.  The conference’s general session, “Connect With Your Membership,” will focus on how state farm commodity associations are working together to achieve priorities for all ag families.

“We hope to reintroduce some of our farmer-leaders to some of the customers they are serving every day.  Each of our associations is serving their membership as customers.  We want them to know how we are doing and how well we are working together to serve Illinois agriculture,” Mitchell elaborated.

Breakouts sessions include “International Buyers in a U.S. Economy,” “What Women Want” (a perspective on what an urban mom wants from the food she puts on her table) and “Connect With Your Congress.”

“We’ll be taking a look at international customers and what they expect from us in terms of a product and in terms of communication,” said Mitchell.  “We are also going to talk to a Chicago mom, Amy Rossi, about what consumers want in terms of food production and communication.

“And we’ll also talk about connecting with your Congress – how we can better communicate with them and understand what is going on in Washington, D.C.”

During the breakout sessions, a representative of the USDA Meat Export Federation will discuss why international markets for grain-fed beef are one of the most important for the domestic livestock industry.  At the top of the agenda will be a presentation on what international customers desire when they consider buying U.S. meat.

In another breakout session, Rossi, of Naperville, will tell farmers that moms expect quality when it comes to what they feed their families.

She’ll present an insider’s view on what she wants from the food she puts on her family’s table and share her experiences with Illinois Farm Families.

A third breakout session, featuring Mike Stokke of the Farm Credit Administration, will demonstrate how, through trial and error, he has learned how to better communicate with Congressional members and make his voice heard.

The conference’s general session on connecting with membership will feature a panel discussion consisting of Paul Taylor, the Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA) president, Bill Raben, Illinois Soybean Association chair, Dereke Dunkirk, Illinois Pork Producers president, and Alan Adams, Illinois Beef Association president.

Cost for the conference will be $60 before Nov. 15, $90 thereafter and $25 for students, with sessions beginning at the conclusion of the annual meeting of the ICGA at 10:15 a.m.  The conference adjourns with an ice cream social sponsored by Prairie Farms at 2:30 p.m.

Farmers and other planning to attend should note the new location of the conference at the Marriott, 201 Broadway Street in downtown Normal, near the campus of the Illinois State University.  More details on the conference, including registration information, can be found online at www.ilcommodityconf.org.