National Corn Growers Association

(KMAland) -- With 2019 in the rear view mirror, the National Corn Growers Association is looking forward to a better year.

In a year that saw record flooding in parts of the corn belt, trade tensions and consternation with renewable fuels, NCGA CEO Jon Doggett says farmers are ready for a fresh start.

"I haven't hardly talked to a farmer or one of the folks in our organization who hasn't said in the last couple weeks, 'Boy, am I glad 2019 is gone,'" said Doggett. "It was a tough year. It was a tough year for so many reasons. Obviously, the weather made everything very, very difficult for a whole lot of folks. Then we had trade disputes, and we've had this inability from Washington to figure out how to get along with one another and get anything done."

In 2020, Doggett says his organization is keeping the same focus as last year: increasing sales, securing export markets and building consumer trust. He says a recently announced trade deal with China could provide relief, but he is skeptical on what the final deal will look like.

"We're still waiting to see what this China deal looks like," said Doggett. "We see a tremendous opportunity for ethanol into China. We're hearing through the grapevine that we might not be getting what we thought we were going to get out of this phase one agreement. We're waiting to see. We are contacting the administration to get some ideas as to what really is going on. We see a lot of potential there, but as we've seen with China so many times over the years, the great potential never seems to be realized."

On the ethanol front, Doggett says corn producers want a strong RFS.

"We need to protect the Renewable Fuel Standard, which still is the primary driver of demand for ethanol use in the United States," said Doggett. "We're looking to the future with a high-octane, low-carbon fuel standard that will take some time to get done and take some time to implement. But, that's looking down the road four or five years from now, but we have to get started now."

Domestically, Doggett hopes the demand for corn will grow. He hopes a direct marketing approach will appeal to consumers.

"Most consumers don't care much how their food is produced, but they want to know that the people who produced their food have the same values that they do," said Doggett. "I certainly think that's the case with American agriculture. We need to meet the consumer where they live and address the needs, wants and desires -- as fickle as they may be -- in order to continue to sell to that consumer."

Iowa ranks as the top corn-producing state in the country, while Nebraska ranks third and Missouri checks in at 10th. Doggett was a recent guest on KMA's Morning Routine program. You can hear his full interview below.