Iowa Corn Drives Innovation, Next Generation Leaders
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Why Iowa? Q&A with Emily Callison


Emily Callison

Iowa Corn Growers Association

An interest in agricultural policy brought Emily Callison to law school in Iowa, and she now works with farmers and legislators in the country’s largest corn growing state. 

Emily is a native of Tennessee whose family has always farmed, but her interest in agriculture was really sparked in elementary school when she started showing market lambs through 4-H and continued showing livestock through high school. She became involved in livestock judging at the start of her 4-H career, and her family raised club lambs for a short time. After earning a degree in animal science at University of Tennessee, she came to Iowa to attend Law School at Drake University in Des Moines, which was one of only three schools in the country at the time with an agriculture-focused law program

She serves as government relations manager at Iowa Corn, working with farmer members to gather input and develop policies to represent them. She also works to develop and coordinate grassroots advocacy efforts for issues important to corn growers, as well as managing the Iowa Corn Growers Association PAC. 

Emily and her husband, Sean, live in Ankeny. 

1. How does an organization like Iowa Corn drive innovation in the state? 

Iowa Corn is comprised of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board® (ICPB) and Iowa Corn Growers Association® (ICGA). Both organizations work on the joint mission to create opportunities for long-term Iowa corn grower profitability. 

The Iowa Corn Promotion board uses checkoff dollars from farmers to invest in education, research and market development for corn grown in the state. There is a tremendous amount of research going on to help farmers not only grow corn more sustainably, but also find new uses for corn that can benefit farmers, the economy and the environment. We also work to find new markets for corn and strengthen trade relationships on behalf of Iowa growers. 

The Iowa Corn Growers Association is a farmer membership association that is focused on legislative issues and working with our state and federal legislators on issues important to farmers. As a grassroots organization, the members establish the policy that directs the organization how to act on policies and regulations that impacts Iowa’s corn farmers. Issues range from conservation, transportation infrastructure, ethanol, trade, taxes and more. 

2. How is the organization working to develop the next generation of leaders? 

One of our top priorities is building the next generation of agricultural leaders. There are a lot of opportunities for our members, including leadership roles at the county and district levels as well as state board and committees. We have a collegiate advisory team in developing programs that target and enhance Iowa Corn’s relationship with those individuals who are pursuing careers in agricultural production and allied industries. 

The Iowa Corn Leadership Enhancement and Development (I-LEAD) is a two-year program for talented people who want to become strong leaders for Iowa agriculture and spokespeople for the ag industry. It includes incredible leadership and networking opportunities as well as both domestic and international travel to see agriculture in different parts of the country and the world. It is an application based program that is open to anyone involved in the state’s agriculture industries. 

3. What opportunities are there for young professionals in Iowa and/or central Iowa? 

Des Moines and Central Iowa is a great place to start and build your career, especially in agriculture. One group is Young Professionals in Agriculture which works to connect young professionals with the leaders of agricultural companies and organizations here in the state. It is a great place to start making networking connections across every sector of agriculture. There are a lot of opportunities to get involved in communities and the industry with volunteer and board roles. 

4. What advice would you give someone considering a move to Iowa? 

Being from the South, my first concern about moving to the Midwest was snow! The weather is a change, but it becomes part of everyday life and I quickly learned to not panic when the snowflakes fly! 

The best advice is to come visit. You’ll like what you see and find a community that fits your interests and stage of life. 

5. Please give us three recommendations of things to do or places to go in Iowa. 

Get on your bike! I was never into biking until I started dating my now-husband, and now it is something we together and with friends. The bike trails in Des Moines and central Iowa are extensive and have something for every level of experience. 

My home state has a state fair, but nothing compares to the Iowa State Fair! Everyone goes for the food, but take time to check out the livestock barns and events across the fairgrounds. There is definitely something for everyone! 

There are great small towns and cities across the state, and one of my favorites is Pella. Pella’s Tulip Time Festival in May is quite the experience. But, honestly, it’s worth a drive to Pella any time of year just for the Dutch letters at Jaarsma Bakery.

Updated June 2021. 

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