Schoenrock eyes FB importance at county level

Thursday, November 15, 2012
Jason Schoenrock, new Plymouth County Farm Bureau president, said he accepts that challenges and accomplishments intertwine in working ahead to benefit producer-members.

Jason Schoenrock agrees that, yes, he does find there are times when nights and mornings meet quickly.

The service manager at Titan Machinery, in Le Mars, is also a farmer.

"I look at it as having two basically full-time jobs," Schoenrock said. "But I make it work, and enjoy, in both cases, what I'm doing."

Schoenrock who farms near Hinton took on still more responsibilities this past September when he accepted the position of Plymouth County Farm Bureau president.

He and other farm bureau members are presently gearing up for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation's (IFBF) 94th annual meeting Dec. 4-5 in Des Moines.

At the same time, Schoenrock stops to consider the role of county farm bureau organizations and their importance within the statewide organization.

While realizing the accomplishments of many at the county level, members also accept there are additional challenges ahead, he said.

Schoenrock describes his role as county Farm Bureau president as being a generational thing.

"I was always around my dad who was active in Farm Bureau and saw what it meant to him and the assistance it provided to farmers," he said. "As I began farming I, too, wanted to be involved. As I look back I think Dad would be proud that I'm carrying on what was important to him."

Schoenrock's father, the late Jerry Schoenrock, who died in 1995, served as Plymouth County Farm Bureau president from 1993-1994 after, as his son described it, having "worked his way through the ranks.

Jerry Schoenrock began his leadership with the county farm bureau as a Lincoln Township Farm Bureau board member.

Jason Schoenrock's own entry into the county leadership role has taken a similar path following his decision to become a board member representing Lincoln Township in 2000.

As he has moved into the presidency he feels he has"some big boots to fill."

Schoenrock commended retiring president, John Ahlers, of Le Mars, who completed his term as president in September.

"John has contributed greatly to what we've accomplished at the county level," Schoenrock said.

Considering current and future goals within the organization, Schoenrock said he sees membership growth as an important overall objective.

The current goal is 2,036 members in the county, he said.

"We need get the word out to non-members within the county about our accomplishments, how we can help them on farming issues," he said.

He said the organization's ongoing policy formulation on agriculture issues impacting farmers offers is just one example of grassroots membership benefits both state and nationally.

Schoenrock added he feels fortunate to work cooperatively with Mark Bohner, regional farm bureau manager, in efforts to develop possible new policies to be submitted by Plymouth County members in conjunction with those in Sioux and Lyon counties.

The proposals are to be submitted to the state level at next August's state policy meeting.

Possible policy issues being explored are those dealing with the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) use of drone aircraft for surveillance of Iowa farmland, school lunch dietary issues and extended estate tax rules.

Still other issues the 42-year-old Plymouth County Farm Bureau president feels worthy of attention are those relating to health care, retention of beginning farmer and conservation programs and world trade matters.

He said he also sees young farmers like himself benefiting greatly from membership within farm bureau.

Schoenrock said, "There's no other group I know of that offers them the kind of support farm bureau provides as we talk here about taking policies up the ladder.

"The mentoring of these younger members by older members on farm-related management and issues and possible new policies are other of our benefits."

Among the examples has been that of assisting members with building new strategic manure containment systems helpful to livestock and hog producers, he said.

"We can be proud, I believe, of extending this help through a phone number and hot line to a lot of producers," Schoenrock said.

Looking wide range at the farming community picture, the impact of the summer drought, replenishing soil moisture for next year's growing season plus still rising land prices remain on farmers' minds as they move into a new year, Schoenrock said.

He acknowledges that land sale prices, including a recent $15,000 per acre in Plymouth County and an earlier $21,000 per acre Sioux County sale are of special concern to farmers in his own age category.

"A young farmer has a hard time because he can't pencil these kinds of prices in and make them work," Schoenrock said.

He added that, on the other hand, he also understands many of the sales to established farmers are due to the farmers' concern that the land purchase is possibly a "once in a life-time" opportunity.

"We also know, too, that we're losing more land every day because of rural development, and you can't make more land once it's gone," he said. "It's a trickle-down effect we saw begin years ago in California and never thought would happen either here in Iowa nor Nebraska where land prices are also rising."

Plymouth County's new farm bureau leader is, however, steadfast in his belief on the future of farming for himself, his wife, Rachel, and daughters, Breanna, 15; Morgan, 13; and Sarah, 9.

"I enjoy raising food to feed the world," Schoenrock said. "It's something I've done all my life and that I know how to do."

Suffice to say Schoenrock can count himself among those rising to the count in Iowa's food for the world production.

Data provided by the IFBF indicates a single Iowa farmer is now producing food to feed approximately 155 people world-wide. This compares to 73 people in 1970.