A Chat With The New NAWG President

April 27, 2013 04:58 PM

Get to know Montana wheat farmer Bing Von Bergen

pW1 A Chat With The New NAWG President

"There are more opportunities in ag right now than ever before."

Montana farmer Bing Von Bergen is no stranger to growing wheat, but he has stepped into a new leadership position as the recently appointed president of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG).

Farm Journal had a chance to talk with Von Bergen about his farming background as well as his aspirations for NAWG this coming year.

Q How did you get into farming. What was the biggest appeal?

A I’ve been farming for 34 years now. I was born and raised on a family farm in central Montana. Farming has been a part of my life ever since I was a young kid. I had an opportunity to be in agriculture, and once I realized it was a good way to make a living—and a good way of life—I jumped right in. I was blessed to be born into agriculture.

Q What do you like most about growing wheat?

A While there are other crops such as peas and barley grown in Montana, wheat is the crop we can always grow—and grow successfully. Because of our low moisture, we only get 10" to 15" of rainfall a year. As a third-generation farmer, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work—do that enough years and you can get pretty good at raising a wheat crop.

Q What are some of your top priorities with NAWG?

A Our No. 1 priority right now is to get a five-year farm bill passed this year. Farmers need to know what their safety net is so they can effectively plan ahead for the long term. Within that farm bill is the importance of protecting federal crop insurance. Because wheat is often raised in more volatile areas, it’s extremely important to know with certainty that we’ll continue to have federal crop insurance at the current levels. This is a very complex system that took 35 years to get to where it is now, and we need to help legislators understand some of those complexities. A lot of the critics of crop insurance don’t understand the complexity of the system. One of our roles at NAWG is to keep giving input on how changes would affect the wheat industry.

Q What do you think are some of the biggest challenges in farming right now?

A For someone who wants to get into farming, the biggest challenge is the sheer amount of money required to get started.

I also think a lot about the urbanization of America. We’re losing some of our best farmland to city expansion, and we continue to distance ourselves more and more from agriculture.

Well-meaning, well-intentioned people have been trying to impose policy on things that they know little or nothing about. We sometimes are accused that we’re not stewards of the land, but the truth is we have to be or we won’t have it any longer. So good communication about agriculture continues to be essential.

Q What’s the best advice that you’ve ever received?

A Be willing to change—don’t be so set in your ways that you develop tunnel vision. Everything is changing all of the time, so you have to embrace change and new opportunities.

Von Bergen at a Glance

  • Raises wheat and barley near Moccasin, Mont.
  • Co-owner of Heartland Seed Company (small grains, grass and alfalfa)
  • Active in his local school, co-ops and the Basin State Bank
  • Multiple past leadership roles with NAWG and the Montana Grain Growers Association
  • U.S. Army veteran
  • Wife (Lois) and two children (Tyler and Tana), both students at Montana State University

You can e-mail Ben Potter at bpotter@farmjournal.com.

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