Whether he's plowing the halls of Congress or his corn acres, Texan Dee Vaughan is working to rope the benefits of corn production, both for himself and producers nationwide.
He's the new National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) president (effective Oct. 1). Vaughan has grown corn, soybeans, wheat and grain sorghum seed for 26 years near Dumas, in the Texas Panhandle. He has been active in Texas and national corn policymaking for more than 12 years. And he isn't shy about praising the “team effort” of corn producers in the 25 corn producing states with ties to NCGA.
“The strength of NCGA is diversity,” he says. “By working together, we form a national agenda. Whether it's the Farm Bill, or policy on biotechnology, a renewable fuels standard, international trade or rural development — that agenda strives to benefit all U.S. corn farmers.
“It (the Farm Bill) may not be exactly what some growers think is ideal, but it's something that can be supported nationwide,” says Vaughan, who was among those testifying before House Agriculture Committee Farm Bill hearings that led to the final legislation.
“I was very proud of NCGA (during Farm Bill debates) in the way we came together to develop a common policy that worked. That policy created an adequate safety net, provided more funds for trade promotion and conservation, and for the first time, created an energy title within the Farm Bill that will increase use of biomass for renewable fuel.”
Dee and his wife, Terri, have three children. His father, H.B. Vaughan, and brother, Jim, are also corn producers.
Virtually all of Vaughan's corn is grown under low-pressure, center pivot irrigation. Thanks to adequate groundwater supplies and solid management techniques, yields average 230 bu./acre. He works closely with Texas A&M University scientists in conducting periodic on-farm studies on herbicides, fertilizers and other crop production methods.
He helped form the then Lone Star Corn Growers Association in 1991 as an NCGA affiliate. In the late 1990s, Lone Star became Corn Producers Association of Texas, and continues to work closely with the Texas Corn Producers Board.
Vaughan hopes to see the emergence of ethanol production as a major value-added agribusiness in Texas. He also backs a strong national alternative fuels program.
“Last year approximately 9% of the nation's corn crop went toward producing more than 2 billion gallons of ethanol,” he says. “That's a very important market for us. That's why NCGA's No. 1 legislative goal in 2003 is for Congress to pass a comprehensive Energy Bill that contains a renewable fuel standard.”
Vaughan sees a stronger NCGA that creates opportunities for corn farmers in a changing world. “We want to help secure today's needs,” he says. “We've done that through the Farm Bill. We are against any changes in that program at this time, including any attempts to reduce payment limitation levels.
“We're creating new marketing opportunities, not only through renewable fuels, but plastics and other products derived from corn production,” says Vaughan. “NCGA has a whole host of research in the pipeline that will help improve corn production and help create new markets for corn producers. We're also looking down the line at trade issues so our growers can prosper in the future.”
Vaughan stresses the need for more involvement among producers everywhere. “I believe very strongly in being involved wherever possible — local, state or national,” he says. “By working together, corn producers can keep NCGA as a voice heard loud and clear in the halls of Congress and throughout the nation.”