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Johnson's year as NCGA president is in honor of her parents

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 11/28/2012 8:26 AM

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FLOYD, Iowa — Pam Johnson's year as president of the National Corn Growers Association is in honor of her parents, John and Bonnie Norby of Osage. It is also in memory of her father, who died of pancreatic cancer Oct. 1, the day she took office.

"Even through the end, he and Mom were teaching us about strength, resilience, faith, hope and what family meant," Johnson said. "I am who I am because of what I learned from them."

Johnson said the outpouring from her "second family, my corn family," has been supportive.

"It's the best work I've ever done with the best people," Johnson said of her service to corn growers. "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."

The difficult days help to keep things in perspective.

"We've got a lot of challenges, and I'm really frustrated with not getting the farm bill passed, but you just keep plugging away," she said. "I flew out to the farm bill rally this fall not sure if I should go, but my dad said, 'You go do your work.' It was just more impetus to go out there and explain why it was so important to farmers to get this done.

The Johnson family is finished with harvest.

"I think it's remarkable that on our farm and throughout the country we could produce a 10.7 billion bushel corn crop with no rain," Johnson said.

Her farm received just 1.5 inches of rain in June, 0.7 in July and 3 inches in August. The rain helped the beans, but it came too late for the corn.

"This drought has been hard on all our end-users whether it's livestock or ethanol or exports, but we have to realize this is a short term event and we are going to turn this ship around and produce bountiful crops," Johnson said.

She first got involved with Iowa Corn in 2001 and moved up the ranks working on state and national issues.

"I've had the chance to do work that is so rewarding and you see how people working together can make a difference," she said.

Johnson and her husband, Maurice, are sixth generation farmers. They grow corn and soybeans with their sons and their wives.

"When you have the next generation working with you, everything becomes more important and poignant," Johnson said.

She is the first woman president of NCGA.

"For anyone who is elected president of the National Corn Growers Association, it is an honor," Johnson said. " If you've been involved for a long time, you realize the caliber of the people who lead. It is a group of grower leaders and staff second to none. Yes, it's important for me to be the first woman. I've been involved with Executive Women in Agriculture Conference and CommonGround, both are for women who want to be involved in agriculture leadership roles, and it's been a privilege to speak to them as a leader. Vanessa Kummer is chair of the United Soybean Board, and it's been great to work with her."

Johnson has benefited from role models and mentors, both women and men.

"If I can be a mentor or role model that would be an honor," she said.

Coming from a long line of strong men and women farmers, Johnson watched them work together.

"It's not a novel idea for me to be working together with men as leaders," Johnson said. "Looking back, I'm amazed at where I am right now, but it also feels very comfortable and the right place to be."