COURTLAND, Minn. — With his many goals and priorities in tow, Tim Waibel was elected president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association. His term began Oct. 1 and will last one year. What started as Waibel filling a vacancy on the MCGA board in 2012 has led him to serve as secretary, treasurer and now president. Waibel is ready to take on the challenges and opportunities in growing demand for Minnesota corn in the state and beyond.
Waibel and his wife, Mary have been farming full time since 1994 and are the parents of five children. They now farm alongside sons Justin and Jonathan and raise 24,000 pigs a year in a wean-to-finish operation. The Waibels also grow corn and soybeans near Courtland, Minn.
E15’s future is now
Waibel’s number-one goal as MCGA president is to move E15 forward. “It’s such a no-brainer to do it.” He believes the time has come for implementation of E15. Waibel points out the E15 plants are in rural communities, offering not only an economic boost to the farmers but to their neighbors as well. “Ethanol cleans up the environment, it helps the local farmer,” Waibel said.
Advances in corn-based products
There have been many new innovations when it comes to the usage of corn. According to Waibel, researchers from the University of Minnesota Center for Sustainable Polymers have developed tires made from corn-based rubber instead of a petroleum-base. The research also continues in utilizing corn-based plastics on a broader scope. Waibel would like to see the corn industry be part of the creation of more plastics. He’s proud of the ongoing collaborative effort that the MCGA and the University of Minnesota have for broadening the usage of corn in everyday products.
Cover crops, not right for all
With many farmers growing cover crops to improve soil health, Waibel sees both the benefit and the challenging logistical situations cover crops offer. “We don’t use cover crops on our farm.”
Waibel covers 700 to 800 acres with hog manure. The state prohibits manure application until the soil temperature is below 60 degrees. A cover crop won’t work on Waibel’s farm as he wouldn’t have enough time in the fall to get the manure applied and plant the cover crops before the temperatures drop. “I hope the state never mandates us to grow cover crops.”
Waibel recognizes that each farm is unique, and a one-size-fits-all mandate wouldn’t work in this situation. “My farm certainly isn’t the same as a farm 30, 40, 50 miles away from us,” Waibel said.
Issue with U.S. Department of Agriculture corn totals
Does the United States grow too much corn? Waibel doesn’t think so. The numbers released by the USDA have been confusing though. “The USDA got some numbers wrong.” Whether that was the usage numbers or the inventory numbers. “It’s frustrating as a producer. We’d like to go into harvest with our bins empty.” Those overestimated numbers earlier in the year led to farmers having to hold onto supply until later on when the market improved.
On the political front
Waibel believes losing lawmakers who stood strong for agriculture is a tough blow for Minnesotans. That sentiment has certainly been felt by many with the defeat of Rep. Collin Peterson in the November elections. Waibel felt that Rep. Peterson had extensive knowledge on ag issues. “He understood ag policy on the federal level.” On Rep. Peterson’s side of the aisle, many looked to him regarding decision making in ag legislation.
At the state level, Rep. Jeanne Poppe (District 27B), chair of the Minnesota Agriculture and Food Finance and Policy Division lost her re-election bid. “She was a strong voice for the corn farmer.” Waibel explains that the MCGA will continue to work on forging strong connections with legislative representatives. “We’ve always had good relationships with our policy makers.”
Waibel encourages lawmakers from the Twin Cities metro area to come out and visit a farm or two and ask questions. MCGA tries to get policymakers out to farms and Waibel notes they have had great success in that. “We have hosted a lot of people.” Having the opportunity to share concerns, talk about the issues and explore solutions have all happened while simply having a chat in the field. “Everyone wants to make Minnesota a better place.”
Last March, Waibel went to Washington D.C. to meet with Minnesota lawmakers. The trip started with handshakes; but in those next few days Covid-19 surged, the handshakes quickly ended. That was the last trip to Washington D.C. Waibel has been on so far this year. While virtual meetings are the norm for now, that in-person connection is something Waibel has certainly missed in these last nine months. “There’s nothing better than going into someone’s office and visiting with them.” He doesn’t hold out much hope that the annual meeting with Minnesota senators and representatives will happen next March. He is optimistic that Corn Congress and congressional visits can happen in July.
The opportunities for corn continue to grow, along with the challenges. Waibel is excited for the future of corn and is proud of MCGA’s strong role in that future.