Leading a leader
KULM, N.D. -- Bart Schott says his own ascendance in the heirarchy National Corn Growers Association is important, but he's happiest about a pattern of leadership that has stepped up along the western edge of an expanding Corn Belt in the past fe...
KULM, N.D. -- Bart Schott says his own ascendance in the heirarchy National Corn Growers Association is important, but he's happiest about a pattern of leadership that has stepped up along the western edge of an expanding Corn Belt in the past few years.
Bob Dickey of Laurel, Neb., is the chairman, Darrin Ihnen of Hurley, S.D., is the president, and now, Schott is first vice president.
Since elected by the NCGA board June, Schott already has made about 50 flight segment connections and traveled 50,000 miles, even though only he started in his post Oct. 1.
"I think travel is part of the position," says Schott, noting the organization is based in St. Louis and has another office in Washington. The organization has 36,000 members in 26 states and serves as the political arm for the industry.
Schott, 58, farms some 4,000 acres on the edge of Kulm in a four-county area. He farms with his sons, Andy, 27, and Micah, 24, and Jerry Hurtig, a full-time hired man. (While farming, Andy also is doing graduate work as a nurse anesthetist and Micah is getting a doctorate in cell anatomy.)
Schott's son, Peter, 29, who works full time with Feed Management Systems of Fargo, N.D., is working with the Schott family seed business while Bart is in his national leadership.
The Schott family has been farming in North Dakota for more than 100 years.
Bart's grandfather, Peter Schott, was one of the so-called German from Russia, who homesteaded in Kulm in 1905.
Peter migrated from the Bessarabian area of Russia, which later became the Republic of Moldova.
"He left when the Russian czar opened the draft when he was age 18," Bart says. "In those days, the youngest son got to farm, so Peter had to go to the Russian army or leave."
Bart's father, Otto, was the second of 12 children.
After high school, Bart started studying economics at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, when circumstances changed.
"I was not planning to come back and farm," Schott says.
He was working an internship with the Pamida retail company.
In 1974, Otto, suffered a severe heart attack and died.
Otto had his wife, Esther, in excellent financial shape -- no debt and full bins.
Schott, who was a year short of an economics degree, and his brother Gilbert, who was teaching school in Crosby, N.D., came home to plant the crop.
"The 1974 crop turned out to be huge," Schott says. "We had 100-bushel barley and sold it for $3.95 a bushel. We had 60-bushel wheat and sold that for $4.85 a bushel. My mother couldn't believe the revenue stream coming in from the farm. She told us that if we wanted to stay and farm, she'd work out a crop-share."
The two Schott brothers farmed in cooperation and bought a seed cleaning business and initially called it Schott Brothers Seed Plant.
In 1977, Bart married his wife, Linsey. The three sons came along in 1979, 1981 and 1983.
In 1978, Schott became a Sigco dealer, which, through company changes, became a Mycogen Seeds business and involves corn, soybeans and sunflowers. They're a "preferred" dealer in the Dow AgroScience network and have been especially active with customers within a 20-mile radius of Kulm.
The Schotts still are involved in cereal grains. Last winter, the local county crop improvement association to increase a new spring wheat called Barlow, he says.
The seed business was a "loose end" when Schott decided to work toward a position at the NCGA.
"I knew I wouldn't have time to give the seed business its full due," he says. "I was glad when Peter jumped in and said he'd take it because I've had customers with me for more than 30 years. I didn't want to not be able to service their seed needs."
The hottest crop
Bart says corn is an exciting crop to be involved with. There are some 300,000 farmers who raise the crop commercially nationwide.
"Corn has always been the lead crop for any technological advance," Bart says. "If you look at the genome mapping and Bt (bacillus thuringiensis) corn . . . well, to me, it's the hottest crop to be involved with."
Involvement has involved increasing commitments.
In 2002, Schott ran for the North Dakota Corn Council.
He started as the Region 6 director for the group, which allocates state checkoff dollars. Most is distributed as grants for corn-related research. Schott eventually became its vice chairman and chairman.
In 2003, he went on the Syngenta Leadership Program. After that, he was appointed to the NCGA's "action team" for research and business development. After four years at that, he switched to the NCGA's biotech team and subsequently decided to run for the NCGA national board.
"I got beat the first time I tried," he says. "Lost by two votes -- and then I ran again and won. My motto is that to serve that level, I have to be as proactive as I can."
After two years on the corn board, Bart decided to work toward the executive committee. In June 2009, the 15-member corn board voted to make him its first vice president, which means he would serve as president from Oct. 1, 2010, to Sept. 30, 2011, then chairman the following year.
Schott is happy with the NCGA's results and reputation.
"They have a reputation in Washington on the Hill second to none. They know our data is based on scientific research," he says.
Schott says that even before he got on the corn board, he was worked on improvements to the Farm Service Agency farm storage program. He took the proposal through NCGA channels, through Sen. Kent Conrad's staff and into the farm bill. The changes took effect in August.
"Several of us helped get the loan limits raised to $500,000 and got the financing stretched out from five years to 12 years, and the third thing was to ease the mortgage requirements for the land that bins were put on," he says. "Now, the only property involved in the note is the land the bin sits on."
The organization played a significant role in moving forward on the 2008 farm bill.
Among the improvements would be removing a penalty on U.S. corn producers when their actions lead to "indirect use" effects in other countries, things like converting forest land to farmland. Another issue is to keep funding for conservation provisions like Environmental Quality Incentive Program.
"The next issue will be the climate change provisions in the energy bill. We want to be influential getting the nine points that (Rep.) Collin Peterson wanted in the energy bill. We're working with ag-state senators to get those same provisions in the Senate bill -- but improved